Jagged, rusty, finger-like spokes split the air, guided in a slow forward approach by the steady grip of their once militant Nicaraguan owner. A recovered medieval torture device or a grossly over-sized fork – a novice gaze saw only the crude, splintering wooden handle held purposefully before a wide grin under the shade of a mariachi mustache. “Así, con la mano. ¡Vamos!” [Like this, by hand. Let's go!]
Independence Day, September 15th, a Wednesday. Elegant cotton rays of red, white and blue fluttered across town as a backdrop to the distant, celebratory drum line. School uniforms filed past the town center in a rush to join the rising crescendo of shouts, car horns and whistles already developed further West. Over-eager families continued to wrestle for the few remaining patches of shade that clung to the main roadway. Neighbors' probing eyes and stretched-forth necks culminated in a single shared thought: “¡Ahorita!”
A far-flung glimpse of a lone flag pole quickly transformed into the surrounding bellow of the high school drum corps. Trumpets, saxophones, xylophones – melody joined rhythm in radiating the often evocative but here distinctly Caribbean “Buffalo Soldiers.” Advancing in close pursuit young men and women weaved through a set of formations as Central America's flags fluttered and twirled in a beautifully metrical display of color and fraternity.
Once past, eager crowd members merged with the wall of banners and marchers at the processional breech. Avoiding both collision and commitment, La Guaria's resident norteamericano carefully navigated the final meters of asphalt before arrival at the restaurant entrance. The screen door swung, first open then shut, as the pale figure quietly disappeared inside.
As sunset approached, the metallic gate to the East of the restaurant creaked open. With its bloated shadow ambling ahead, a lone figure cut through the heavy afternoon air en route to the town center. In contrast to the morning activity the afternoon landscape betrayed the listless yet familiar atmosphere surrounding the plaza. The more unimaginative of residents crowded into their usual tree-covered corners to drain bubbling golden fluid from protective glass bottles. An occasional head swung around, offering an unsteady saludo to the light-haired novelty hopping past.
Celebrations continued under the guise of children's laughter, four grinning faces skipping freely in gamely pursuit between the community hall and neighboring concrete church. Through a window in the background two adults maintained a lively discussion, one brandishing an instrument of doubtful purpose before the other's bemused and animated face. Across town the emerging sound of cricket-song arose in welcome of local residents returning exhausted from a day of festivities. Three bicyclists, two notably darker composed than the third, vanished into the setting light. Night had set-in to rest a national soul dancing to an independent hymn.
Having left their bicycles on the dark, dirt path above, a trio of galoshes splashed expectantly into the trickling creek below the banana crested hillside. A torch flickered on to softly illuminate the aquatic world beneath rubber-clad feet. Clouds blocked all but the most piercing of stars, leaving vision as the untrustworthy companion to hearing. A small splash and dull thud was quickly followed by a cry of triumph, the voice's owner extending an arm towards his nearby companions. Artificial light glistened across the moist, defeated figure of a five-inch long crayfish, it's unbridled energy stilled between the protruding metal spokes that forced it aloft. Smiles stretched wide between the fishermen, a Nicaraguan Pastor and his Costa Rican parishioner. Independence Day, 2010 thus closed with the scent of pond water soaking through trousers, a bag bulging from a fresh catch and an evening devoid of the star that lends the Valle de la Estrella its name. And who's to know - perhaps the gringo learned something.