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Nicaraguans celebrate La Griteria in Miami-Dade

By Rodolfo Roman
Special to the Herald
For the past seven years, Fort Lauderdale resident Roberto Landero has rented a U-Haul truck, but not for moving purposes. Instead, Landero has kept a family Nicaraguan tradition alive by renting the truck and transforming its storage space into a decorated altar with an image of the Virgin Mary to celebrate La Griteria, a Catholic religious holiday in the Central American country. “I do this for the love of Maria,” he said.

On Tuesday, Landero’s creation was one of many altars set up in Sweetwater, Little Havana, Kendall, and Hialeah, where Nicaraguans hit the street to pray, sing and honor the Virgin Mary, the patroness of their home country.

Landero’s altar included an image he purchased in Spain, several types of flowers, colorful paper, Christmas lights and hand-made designs. He started working on the project in July. His colorful altar had a theme, El Jardin de Maria, which translates to The Garden of Maria. It took him two days to set up the altar, which he placed at the parking lot of Laguna Plaza, 10735 W. Flagler St.

“It is a thrill to go out on the street to sing,” he said. “It is spiritually emotional.”

La Griteria- a boisterous celebration that translates roughly to “the yelling” – where Nicaraguan religious followers pray and sing traditional songs in front of an altar with an image of Virgin Mary. The altar could be placed anywhere from a corner of a family house to a big stage. It is celebrated every Dec. 7.

While some sing, other participants make noise with whistles, tambourines and maracas. Traditional Nicaraguan sweets and drinks like chicha de maiz and gifts are distributed.

At nearby Our Lady of the Divine Providence Catholic Church, a bundled up Berna Miranda walked out of mass to celebrate La Griteria on the church’s parking lot.

“It brings me a lot of beautiful memories of my country, Nicaragua,” said Miranda, who last celebrated the event in her country 32 years ago. “It is our tradition. Every Dec. 7 we go out to the streets to sing. I get really emotional when I see the large crowd.”

More than 10 altars were set up at the West Flagler Plaza shopping center, 10720 W. Flagler. Some Nicaraguans displayed their altars on the back of their cars. The tradition started Dec. 7, 1857, in Leon, Nicaragua, when a priest wanted to bring joy to his country after it had endured a national war.

Hialeah resident Miguel Vanegas carried several candles. His goal was to light a candle at every altar he stopped by to sing. He remembers celebrating the event in his native country as a child.

“People get together in Nicaragua for a spiritual gathering,” he said. “I never miss it. We always wait and look forward to next year’s Dec. 7.”

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