Joined by his 4-year-old daughter, Jayden, Nicaraguan-born Felix Ruiz stood in front of an altar dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of Mary in Sweetwater.
Like the Ruizes, many Nicaraguans on Wednesday took to the streets across South Florida, including Sweetwater, Kendall, Little Havana, Hialeah and others, to pay homage to the patroness of the Central American country by celebrating the La Griteria.
“Every year, my mother celebrates it in Nicaragua for the past 45 years. I was born with this Catholic tradition. I think I was already singing when I was in her womb,” he said. “This is a culture from our country. It is sentiment I share with my mother. It is something that is in me and it is the first time I bring my daughter. I can now explain to her why people are signing.”
The religious event is celebrated every Dec. 7. La Griteria, which roughly translates to “the yelling,” is a Catholic holiday in Nicaragua. It is a boisterous celebration in which Nicaraguan religious followers pray and sing traditional songs before an altar with an image of the Virgin Mary, who is also the Catholic patroness of the United States.
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Members of the public walk in procession from altar to altar voicing the emblematic cry of “Who causes so much joy?” Those who created the altars respond, “The Conception of Mary!” Later, gifts, food and drinks are handed out to all attendees.
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.
The altar could be placed anywhere — from a corner of a family house to a big stage.
Frances Abreu carried two small Virgin Mary statues. She brings them out every year on Dec. 7 to pray and sing along with other believers.
“The Conception of Mary is a tradition,” she said. “I celebrate with my mother. This tradition is about giving that’s what I love about it. She is a miracle. She is powerful.”