Each year, Cantur, the government agency devoted to the development and promotion of Tourism in Nicaragua, hosts an event which is the Nicaraguan equivalent of the Hollywood Academy Awards sans all the glitter and hype associated with the American version. The Nicaraguan “Oscars” are called “Gueguenses”, in honor of the UNESCO recognized national historic treasure, the folkloric dance/theater called El Gueguense.
El Gueguense is the one of the oldest indigenous theater/dance works in the Western Hemishpere and originated in the 16th century. It was passed down by oral tradition in both Spanish and indigenous Nahuatal language and was not written until the mid 20th century. The name itself is a Nahuatal word meaning “wise man”. This folkloric treasure is performed annually during the days surrounding the San Sebastian festival in Diriamba between January 17 to 27th.
El Gueguense is apparently the product of the downtrodden indigenous population in an attempt at passive resistance to Spanish domination and culture. What is so fascinating about the performance is that the costumes and the masks worn by the performers are exactly the same as those worn in the 16th century when the performances of this theatrical piece first began. I would bet that the original performances were held clandestinely to mock the Spanish and were not performed for the amusement of the Spanish grandees. The most famous character in the performance wears the mask of a horse and I’m told, his most celebrated line is when he promises all sorts of things to the Spanish overlord and then turns to the audience and says “but I won’t do it”. This invariably evokes roars of approval from the audience, many of whom know all the lines by heart.
Cantur presents to Gueguense award in five different catagories: Sustainablility, Tourist Innovation, Tourist Promotion, Social Responsibility, and most sought after of all, Excellence in Business Practices. At the 2017 award luncheon held March 4th in the Crown Plaza Hotel ballroom, there were ten competitors for each of the categories. In order to be even considered, the applicant must undergo a rigorous three day inspection of every aspect of their business operation and all financial records and documents are validated by Price Waterhouse Accountants. The applicants then must make a presentation in front of a panel of eight judges, demonstrating why their particular hotel or restaurant should be the winner of the award.
And so it was with some trepidation mixed with high hopes that my wife and I were honored to accompany the GM and Marketing Director of ApoyoResort, Nelson Porta and Sara Miranda, to our table at the Crown Plaza to see if ApoyoResort was to be nationally recognized for its outstanding achievements over the past year. I quote now from an email sent by Nelson Porta:
Let me tell you, the “Gueguense Award” is the very top recognition any person or business can receive in Nicaragua (see pictures) they are also what every local business shoots for… and some never get one.
We were selected and invited to apply for these awards 2 months ago, since then we have had several inspection visits by several qualified people, including Price Waterhouse to certify that we are doing what we say we are doing. They reviewed everything, from accounting to banking procedures to policies, business practices, accounts payables, licenses, DGI, Villas, restaurants, even to how we deposit our money! From employee transport to meal to food quality… it was exhausting!…
c/2 an hour later, they started announcing the awards… what is my surprise that they say “and the award to the best Tourism Destination goes to… Apoyo Resort” I almost choked with my salad…!! Wow!! An award for us… I was thrilled, I had to go up with Sara to get the award and give a mini speech… it was great!! One of five awards… awesome!
People coming up to me congratulating me, TV’s interviewing us and all… I wasn’t thru getting over this when they said “and now we will announce the top of the top award”… I said “Probably Guacalito will get it, they spent $150 million building it… we spent $150 Dollars”.. then I listened… “And this year’s top award as the “Best Business in Nicaragua” goes to… Apoyo Resort!!!” I said what????? I almost peed my pants… I was waiting for a person to say that they had made a mistake or something… well, it was no mistake… here we stand today withe 2 of 5 awards, including the very top “”Best Ran Business in the Country”…
Nothing I can say more eloquently expresses the pride and joy that radiated from the faces of the Apoyo Resort management team. That evening, it was on national TV news, in every newspaper in the country and even in a Miami newspaper. Now Apoyo Resort can look anyone in the eye and say with conviction, “we are the best”!