The Greasy Pole Challenge in San Juan Del Sur

The next morning we woke up around 6am to more loud music. A large amount of people partied in the street all night through the morning. We tried to sleep for a couple more hours and then made our way out to the sunny and very warm morning streets. It was extremly hot outside! Our feast from the night before left us wanting a much smaller breakfast, so we grabbed a couple bags of fruit and checked out the new set up in the streets. I had a lot of fun looking at the variety of interesting handmade goods being sold throughout the streets–the vendors had everything from beaded headbands to wooden cross necklaces.  

We wanted to see an event we had heard about where selected locals would attempt to catch a greasy pig in a sand pit today, but instead of a sand pit we saw a very 30 foot tall black wooden pole in the middle of the street. There was a small mound of sand at the bottom of it and a white flag at the top. We’d never seen anything like this, so we had to ask what was going on. 

We saw some of our friends sitting at the steps in front of the pole and they explained to us that a group of younger locals had to figure out how to climb the very greasy pole to the top and grab the flag. The pole was so high up that climbing to the top and then falling seemed extremely dangerous. 

“What do you get when you reach the flag?” my little sister asked when I was explaining the event to her, “Um, a few cordobas but mostly pride. Bragging rights I guess? Here, it’s a bit different. People do things simply because it’s tradition and because they think it’s fun. Entertaining. Little rewards, if any.  They just do it because that’s what you do here.” 

Their technique was strategic and quite impressive–as Jon told me, it would be a really great team management exercise. However, would never be legal by any American corporation terms. By the time they reached the flag, it was past lunch time and we were both hungry for a hotdog and a cold Coca-Cola (you can take the Americans out of America, but you can’t take the America out of them apparently). 

Step 1: create a circle at the base, then have one guy climb on top of them to create the second layer. 
Step 2: Once the first guy gets up there, send another guy to complete the second layer and start the third
Final Step: Get the most athletic and light guy to climb all three layer of people and then tie pieces of wood on the pole all the way up until…
Overall, the weekend was a blast–great music dancing, drinks, food, and tons of people. We really got a sense of the cultural pride Nicaraguans have for their country. They may have had a very troubled past and continue to have a relatively hard time, but none of that prevents them from celebrating their roots and their life.  If you ever get a chance to come to San Juan del Sur, we definitely recommend that you come during the month of San Juan Bautista. You’ll not only have something to do every day and night, but you’ll also get a much better understanding of the country’s unique culture. If you can’t come then don’t worry, there are of course tons of other celebrations on the Nicaraguan calendar. To see a complete calendar check out: Celebrations & Holidays in Nica. 


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