Purisima is Dec. 8 but the nine days leading up to it is a time of celebration in Granada. People are busy painting their houses and cleaning up the street for the day La Conchita (Virgen de la Concepcion) is paraded through their neighborhood. The first night, La Conchita is just taken through the streets around the central square and returned to the Cathedral to sleep. The rest of the days, she leaves the cathedral in the morning at 5 and proceeds to a different church for the day. At night, a procession brings her back.
Saturday night I headed out when I heard the church bells for the evening mass. The priest was just walking in with the sensor and the firefighters were beginning to put together the float for the Virgen. I figured I had enough time to go home and make dinner, eat it and wash the dishes (Moni was off that night) and I did. I went running back out when the bells were ringing wildly and caught up with her as she headed down the first side of the park. A brass band was playing and the firefighters bore her massive wooden palanquin on their shoulders. It was bedecked with lights and flowers and someone wheeled a generator behind her to power the lights. The wind rippled her blue cloak and ruffled the feathers in the angels’ wings. The street was clogged with people waiting and she proceeded very slowly with two police trucks with their sirens blaring slowly parting the people. I was able to catch her on each side of the park, staying on the inside and crossing over when she got to the other side. You cannot help but be pulled along in the crowd. You just relax and let it take you where it goes. People standing on the sides break into applause when she appears. Old men and women cross themselves.
She comes back to the cathedral amid the boom of firecrackers and bursts of fireworks in the sky. The faithful follow her into the cathedral where the priest leads a rousing chorus of cheers. Quien causa tanta alegría? La Concepcíon de María! María de Nicaragua! Vive Maria! Vive Nicaragua! People are whipping themselves into a frenzy waving their towels and hankies and shouting out for Maria. It’s a party scene. People are coming and going, taking pictures, pushing strollers in the cathedral. The band and firefighters bring her back and settle her into her sleeping spot.
Five o’clock in the morning on Sunday, she headed out again. I know because there were a lot of bells and firecrackers and a car driving around with a loud speaker making sure everyone knew that she would be leaving at 5 am and coming home at 6 every night for the next week. I rolled over and went back to sleep.
I just found out that the Purisima is celebrating the immaculate conception of Mary, not Jesus. I had no idea La Virgen's mother was a virgin too!