From Mara Salvatrucha to Artesano of jewelry?!

Trip Start May 13, 2010
Trip End Jul 31, 2010

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Where I stayed
Casa Loca

Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Friday, June 25, 2010

My heart was saddened the other day by the departure of my original "rasta" friend, Roberto. He is the one that introduced me to Casa Loca and the community of artesanos that has become my family. Heīs also the one that is easiest for me to understand. Nonetheless, Iīm very happy that he could go home. Heīs been traveling on and off for 5 years and he really misses Costa Rica. I can tell that he has good days and bad days. I know that he struggles with the Rastafarian lifestyle. Heīs all about love and "buenas ondas" (in this case, good vibrations) but it has definitely been a struggle to swim against the current of mainstream society. I know that there are days when he wishes that he would have taken the road well traveled. He actually has a degree in Computer Science but it wasnīt his passion so he chose the road less traveled. He told me that after 4 years of college, the university was about to deny him his degree because of his dreadlocks and lifestyle. According to Roberto, the Costa Rican government recognizes the Rastafarian culture and permits the use of marijuana within that culture. I donīt know if this is true but Iīm sure itīs easy enough to investigate. Anyways...after paying his dues in school, he had to battle against the school administrators in order to receive his degree. Iīm pretty sure that this didnīt leave a good taste in his mouth and itīs probably part of the reason he left Costa Rica for awhile, I donīt know. I just wish him buenas hondas while he is back in Costa Rica.

Iīve come across a lot of skewed and lopsided information throughout my reading about C.A. I donīt know why that is? The guidebooks make it sound as if Central America is just a wasteland, where the people lurk in the shadows, waiting to relieve you of your money. I read that El Salvador is a really dangerous place, as is Guatemala City. The truth is, I donīt really know. I havenīt experienced anything remotely dangerous. The girl I met from Sweden that is pedaling her bike through North and South America hasnīt experienced anything dangerous either and pretty much all the people that Iīve met, travelers and locals alike regard C.A. as a relatively safe place. Of course there are things we should all avoid but Iīd avoid those things in the U.S as well. Iīm not saying that the danger isnīt real or that it does not exist. Iīm just saying that the media does itīs fair share of fear mongering and it really does not do justice to the culture and the people of Central America. of my artesano friends used to be a member of one of the most notorious gangs in the Americas, Mara Salvatrucha. He showed me this ghastly scar that he has on his left bicep muscle. He was shot in the arm, by a rival gang member. The weapon of choice was a shotgun. At the time he was 25 and for the last 10 years he hasnīt been able to do any type of hard labor. So for the last 10 years heīs been making some amazing jewelry. During that time, his wife was pregnant with his daughter and that pretty much changed his life forever. Even under those kinds of tense situations his wife was by his side and she helped him change his life. I had absolutely no idea that I was staring at the face of an ex-Mara. He told me that he was never into "guns or killing". Are you serious, how does that come out in conversation? He said while he was a gang member he just used his fists but heīs seen gunfights and machete fights. Heīs pretty much seen some of the ugliest sides of humanity and yet he remains someone who I can call my friend. He cooks for me, he shows me how to tie macrame knots, he helps me with my Spanish. Heīs like this giant Rasta-teddy-bear. I guess what Iīve learned from this experience is that, we can never be to quick to judge other people and that perhaps under different circumstances we might all have a dark side.

I captured some of his amazing jewelry on camera enjoy!

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