Keeping traditions alive in Ocú

The traditional countryside wedding, which takes place as part of the National Festival of Manito in Ocú, Herrera Province, is a religious and cultural celebration that promotes respect and family values and is considered the only one of its kind.

Every year over a dozen young couples from around the district of Ocú hope to head up these peasant nuptials, a highlight of the festival.

The folk festival showcases the customs and traditions of the country folk from Ocú lands, who are known as "el manito".

This term comes from a simplification of the word for brother in Spanish, "hermano", explained the folklorist and journalist Olmedo Carrasquilla.

"A peasant used to say 'manito' when he greeted his brother, friend, or comrade," added Carrasquilla.


This year the couple Noriel Peralta and Yarelis González, both from the village of Llano Grande de Ocú, joined their lives in the traditional bond of marriage at San Sebastián church, officiated by priest Daniel Mora.

Antolín Montilla, a teacher and the president of the 43rd National Festival of Manito, said the peasant wedding ceremony is one of the most authentic traditions in this town.

"It's a remembrance of yesteryear, which is preserved to this day in this community of Herrera," he affirmed.

Montilla explained that three months before the festival, 18 couples registered to walk down the aisle, and Noriel and Yarelis selected from a lottery.

He reported that the names of all the couples who wished to wed were drawn on the same day that the festival queen was selected.

He clarified that the aspiring partners should have a civil marriage, profess the Catholic faith, and maintain a stable relationship, "because this is a real, not fictitious, marriage".

The folklorist Carrasquilla indicated that initially the country folk only simulated tying the knot, but about 30 years ago it became the real deal.


Over the past 43 years, thousands of people have visited the village of Ocú, drawn year after year by the folk attractions at this event.

The festival has had several names. At first it was known as the festival of Santa Rosa. Upon the arrival of Cándido Aizprúa, the child born at 3:00 am on September 4, 1958, in a hut in Flores de Ocú who brought the country's population up to one million inhabitants, the event was dedicated to his birthday.

Carrasquilla said that a group of educators met in 1967 to celebrate this festival and called it the Manito Festival, in honor of the peasant farmer.