Güegüense Theatrical Dance
Mural illustrating the Güegüense or Macho Ratón theatrical dance. Photo credit: Claudia von Vacano.

The colonization of Nicaragua brought a fusion of indigenous and Spanish cultural traditions. Today, this mixed heritage can be seen in popular Nicaraguan folklore, particularly, Güegüense theater and dance. The Güegüense or Macho Ratón (brave mouse) is a masked, theatrical dance that grew out of Spain's picaresque literary tradition. These satirical narratives account the humorous adventures of a roguish hero (pícaro), who tricks and outwits multiple masters. Güegüense drama reflects this light-hearted and witty dialogue, encoded with double meanings. Its artful parodies mock the concept of personal property.

Güegüense art also draws upon the indigenous tradition of a trickster who deceives by feigning hearing loss. Other vestiges of indigenous culture include the silent roles of female characters, the repetition of dialogue, and the personification of animals through mask wearing. By interweaving Spanish and Nahuatl languages in this theatrical dance, the blending of indigenous and Spanish influences is evident.

During the Somoza dictatorship, Güegüense theatrical performances were restricted. After the collapse of the Somoza regime, this popular folkloric tradition was revived. Today, traditional Güegüense masks are made in the barrio of Morimbó near Masaya.


Credit: Claudia von Vacano, Learning, Technology and Design Program, Stanford School of Education. Revised by K. Stevens, Stanford Center for Latin American Studies, 7/14/00.