Leon, Regalos a Dios

Trip Start May 11, 2013
Trip End Jun 08, 2013

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Where I stayed
Hotel Suyapa

Flag of Nicaragua  , León,
Sunday, June 2, 2013

After the work with Manos Abiertas in Costa Rica, I was asked to travel to Leon, Nicaragua on another mission involving my taking Spanish classes at Dariana Escuela where Victor Betancourt hopes to offer an study abroad experience for Marymount students. Victor also asked me to visit Marlon Moreno at Taller Artistico Xuchialt in Sutiaba, a large indigenous community in Leon, where he hopes MU students can participate in a service project.
LEON is definitely a cool place ( temperature-wise it is otherwise). At the center of town is a cathedral built in the 18th century, which is one of the largest in Central and South America. Ruben Dario, one of the most important poets of the past century, was raised in Leon and died here. His tomb, guarded by a grief stricken lion,  is in the Cathedral. 
                       Far Away  (excerpt)
Ox that I saw in my childhood, as you steamed
in the burning gold on the Nicaraguan sun,
there on the rich plantation filled with tropical
harmonies; woodland dove, of the woods that sang
with the sound of the wind, of axes, of birds and wild bulls:
I salute you both, because you are my life.                       - Ruben Dario
Leon was once capitol city of Nicaragua and has a rich cultural, religious, and political history depicted in murals throughout the city. The Sandinista Revolution started in Leon. As I write this today, June 4, is the day the revolution started.
BEATLES CONCERT? In front of the cathedral is a large park where there' s always a lot happening. There are souvenir booths and vendors selling pink cotton candy and hielo con leche de cocoa. Sunday evening there was an orchestra concert of Beatles music in the park with a light show and projected videos. Hearing "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" sung in a Spanish accent in front  of an 18th century catherdral was...well, surreal. Leon is full of surprises...
DARIANA ESCUELA Every morning last week I took intermediate level Spanish lessons with my tutor, Rafael. He was a good teacher helping me with my broken Spanish and permiting me to read Diario of Ana Frank in Spanish during our lessons. Rafael tells great stories, especially the one about a street person who wrote a song, "Almohada," which sold millions of copies for the Mexican singer, Jose Jose. Rafael also helped me translate  ballad, "Si no Te Huberias ido" by Marco Antonio Solis, another singer from Mexico. Both canciones are on YouTube. 

DARIANA TOURS Every afternoon Dariana Escuela provides guided tours of Leon's unique historical, religious and cultural resources. Leon is full of surprises. We have visited churches, art museums, a botanical garden, and historical museums.  
MI PROFESOR SANDINISTA  This Monday, I started with a new tutor, Denis, who was a soldado en the Sandinista and Contra Revolutions and after the Sandinsta Revolution was a brigadista in the cruzada alfabetizacion, a literacy volunteer who left home to teach adults to read in remote mountain villages. At the time of the revolution the illiteracy rate in Nicaragua was_12_%. Why on earth would a dictator want it otherwise? "I don't want educated people. I     want oxen" (Somoza).  For similar reasons it was forbidden for slaves in the USA to be educated. Literacy is power, cf Frederick Douglas, Malcolm X, Sojorner Truth. "Leer es poder."
This Sandinista literacy campaign was one the most successful in history. Based on  the same guerilla tactics the Sandinistas had used to win the revolution that ended the decades long reign of the Somoza dictators. The principles of educational philosopher Pablo Freire, author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, were instrumental in developing the curriculum and instructional strategies that made the literacy campaign uniquely successful.  The campaign lasted 5 months and according to collected data, the literacy rate increased to 92%.

UNESCO awarded the campaign their highest honor in 1981. Their literacy workbook, El Almancer del Pueblo, was burned when Violeta Chamoro defeated the Sandinistas in the second presidential election after the Contra revolution. Now that the Sandistas are back in power it has been printed again with a new title.

POET, PROFESOR, REVOLUTIONARY! Last week I interviewed Denis and his friend who were brigadistas in the Cruzada Alfabetizacion. They told stories of adults whom they had taught to read who have since become doctors. During our Spanish lessons at Dariana, Denis has told many stories about the Sandinista Revolution  and the Cruzada Alfabetizacion. Before the revolution he was incarcerated for two months by Somoza for particpating in a protest against the government. He was tortured and feed on rice and cucharachas. The jail where he was incarcerated is now the Museum of Myths and Legends. 
WEEKEND at the BEACH, there were no classes over the weekend so I got away to a nearby surfer beach for a couple of days. Las Penitas Beach is 20 kilometers from Leon. I stayed at Hotel Suyapa and for $30 a night had a room on the 3rd  floor with windows that opened on to the Pacific Ocean. Talk about a room with a view! The best thing about Suyapa is it's never crowded and the spectacular sunsets in the west on the Pacific horizon. Las Penitas is also a fishing village as well as a mecca for surfers. The hotel was a large ranchero restaurant right on the beach. the seafood is pretty darn fresh and delicious. 

MISSION # 2: TALLER ARISTICOS XUCHIALT. Victor Betancourt also had asked me to visit with Marlon Moreno who is the director of a comunity based arts program in Sultiaba, the largely indigenous community here in Leon. I only meet people like my tutors, Denis and Rafael, and like Marlon in Latin American countries. As  the French proverb says, "Such men don't grow on bushes." They are warm, friendly, spontaneous, smart, talented, creative, and very funny. They are alive.  Nicaraguenses in general are approachable, generous with their affections,and muy amable.
The people of Leon love their city and unlike many places in the world, they make you feel at home and genuinely welcomed. 

TALLER ARTISTICOS XUCHIALT is a arts program for children, adolescents and their families. Classes are offered at no cost in music, dance, painting, ceramics, poetry and theatre.
Their programs preserve the indigenous cultural traditions of Sultiaba. Marlon has visited the States many times in cultural exchange projects including two visits to Marymount where he has painted two murals with our students. There are more than a few students from Nicaragua who attend MU. 

Marlon and I have met twice so far and will meet again tomorrow to discuss how Marymount students can participate in arts projects at Taller Artisticos Xuchialt while taking Spanish courses at Dariana.

I had my last class today, now I sadly must prepare  for my departure Je. 8th.

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Aline on

Gad you are having a nice time, please give my warm regards to Marlon and Elliot. Wish I was there! Enjoy the rest of your trip.

Ana Lado on

I wish I was there with you - this is so very interesting.

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