At 9am the activities were just starting to pick up momentum. The small parking lot in front of the CCBN had been emptied of cars and the dozen or so spaces filled with tables of students selling food and drinks. Reggae ton music blared from loudspeakers on the stage and children began to line up for face painting. Mothers from the neighborhood made a much longer line to enter the teachers’ lounge, which had been converted into a yard sale of donated second hand shoes, backpacks and clothing. Behind the scenes, in the theater classroom, kids, teenagers, and even a few adults prepared for the cultural activity of dance and music, for which tickets were sold at $0.35 apiece.
The CCBN holds a Kermes (sounds like care-MESS), or fair, every year on Independence Day (September 15th) to raise money. Each class donates a food or drink to sell, with proceeds going to the center’s scholarship program. Students often contribute small change for months in advance in order to save up the funds to buy ingredients for traditional dishes such as baho, tacos, enchiladas, sopa de albondigas, carne asada, etc. Each class decides who will take turns buying ingredients in the market, cooking, and selling on the big day. Scholarship students work as setup and cleaning crews, sell raffle tickets, and helping with games for the kids.
Last year, Amanda and I spent the morning hanging out with our English students selling tacos. This year, however, we were busy preparing for the cultural event as part of the adult Latin rhythms dance class. This meant reviewing choreography, putting on makeup, attaching the long yarn braids used in traditional Nicaraguan folkdance, putting on more makeup and stepping into the traditional full skirts and blouses, and of course, adding the finishing touches on the makeup. The class had a lot of fun performing a folk dance and then doing a quick costume change before presenting the Wacka Wacka song by Shakira. Other performing groups included the various levels of folk dance for youth and small ensembles from the CCBN orchestra. It was a standing-room-only event and the audience thundered with applause and whistles after each number, friends and family of the performers snapping pictures and waving.
The Kermes was a success. Although the numbers are still out on total funds raised and number of people who attended, activities unfolded smoothly. Pulling off an event like this is no small feat, and Ingrid, the CCBN receptionist and longtime choir member, and Mildred, Level III Basic Adult Education teacher, did a great job organizing everything. Santos, Cándido, Antonio, and Ansony, did hours of heavy lifting to move furniture around to accommodate the various activities and bring in boxes of donated clothing and toys for the bazaar. The administrative team and teachers worked hard to make sure that every last detail had been taken care of. And on the day of the Kermes itself, friends and family of students and people from all over the neighborhood poured in through the gates to enjoy the festivities.