Visitors to La Villa de Los Santos this week will find it in party mode, in celebration of the festival of Corpus Christi. Besides learning more about their countryside customs and traditions, tourists will also see that it is also the ideal place to rediscover how the Spaniards managed to convert the indigenous peoples to Catholocism and colonize their territory, and to remember how this story ended.
Hundreds of tourists are attracted by the local tales, abundant treasures in iconic landmarks like the Museum of Nationality and colonial church of San Atanasio, and the display of dances and street theater that represent the struggle between good and evil, in remembrance of what happened in those days.
Corpus Christi is a Catholic religious festival that celebrates the body of Christ present in the Eucharist, according to Juan de Dios Acevedo, the priest at the church San Atanasio.
In the colonial era, the priests made up stories and put on plays to convince the Indians to accept Catholicism, teaching them that the devils were evil and the Catholic church was good.
These theatrical performances ended up as what is now known as the nine dances of Corpus Christi, a first-rate spectacle that 180 local artists offer to all the town's visitors.
To complement the history
To complete this adventure into the past, complement a view of the dances that show the history of colonization with a visit to the Museum of Nationality. It will be open all week long, and admission costs one dollar for adults and a quarter for children.
The final account of the Spanish conquest of our territory is documented there.
Among the articles stored in this museum are the original bell that was rung during the fight for independence, a war patent signed by Simón Bolívar that issued his orders to attack, coins minted in South America worth as low as half a real, original and replica weapons, the furniture on which authorities sat to sign the proclamation of independence, and the corresponding documents.
A party for the whole family
Since even religious festivals have their pagan side, every year the association Rescate de Danzas Miguel Leguízamo puts on a top-notch show.
Aristides Burgos, the association's president, listed this year's agenda of activities. On Thursday, June 6th is the Eighth Day (a continuation of the feature day of Corpus Christi, celebrated last May 30th), in which the children are the protagonists and begin dancing at 9:00 a.m.
Saturday, June 8th is devoted to tourism, and the nine groups once again parade through the streets of La Villa at around 11:00 a.m.
A stage is set up at Simón Bolívar Park to showcase international folkloric dances, kicking off at 10:00 p.m.
The festival wraps up on Sunday, June 9, by dedicating the final day especially to the Los Santos women. Men perform the dances all weeklong, but on this day the women take the role of the men in the final act of the most important festival of the town.
Once you've taken this trip to the past in La Villa, you will have not only learned the history of the conquest, but, most importantly, appreciated it more.