Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday August 29th

I'm working on the blog this morning before we get ready to go off on an all-day trip to El Porvenir, the coffee cooperative many miles to the north. Yesterday I was with the group that skipped out of Quaker Meeting and instead went to the National Museum. I was impressed with the quality of the displays and much art that speaks about the revolution. Walls at the entry and in various places about the museum are covered with murals - paintings depicting Augusto Sandino, the national historic hero, and Carlos Fonseca, martyr of the revolution and many others. 
A Prominent Display in the Nicaragua National Museum
We had an English speaking guide who gave us a detailed running narration of the exhibits. The first few exhibits depicted the geologic history of Nicaragua. So it seemed at first that it was a natural history museum, but there were also many artifacts that illustrated the native cultures and later it large modern paintings. I was impressed by what the guide said about the pre-historic human migrations. She said that some old people of the indigenous cultures tell stories that have been passed down for many generations about how their people came here from Mexico to flee the cultures there that performed human sacrifice. I asked if any of the cultures here used those practices. She said that, no, the indigenous cultures here were more peaceful than those further north. They know that because the bones and skulls found here do not show the results of violence that are evident in other places. 
Pedro Guerrero Demonstrating his Craft.
The day before, Saturday, I was impressed by our visit to the pottery shop of Pedro Guerrero. He did a demonstration of how he makes a pot. Talking while performing operations that his hands did so naturally and easily making it look easy to create a near-perfect pot with a sea turtle in relief. In his display room full of amazing pottery, it nearly took my breath away. I bought a few pots for gifts and chatted with Pedro's 17 year old son Eduardo who makes pots nearly as beautiful as those of his father. He will be going off to college soon. I felt a special connection with this young man as I wished him luck in his future.

There are many other experiences of yesterday that I will remember, but I will leave those events for others to write about. Josh has a great perspective on the liberation theology mass we attended at the Batahola Norte Community Center.     

Josh von Kuster:
We had a bit of a spiritual day today (Sunday).  Right after breakfast, we had a delegation worship sharing centered on the querries of what we anticipate bringing back with us spiritually and whether we anticipated our lives changing as a result of this trip.  Afterwards, 12 of us, including myself, went to Quaker House here in Nicaragua and had a rather vocal hour of meeting for worship with 7 local attenders.  We had lunch at a Salvadoran restaurant and then toured the city for the afternoon: the highlights being stops at Revolution Plaza, a hill with about a 270 degree view of the city and lake, and a fair trade organization/shop.  We then went to a Liberation Theology mass, which proved to be the most profound experience of the trip thus far to me.
Mural at the Batahola Community Center
where Mass was held
The structure was somewhat reminiscent of the covered outdoor basketball courts you find in Portland parks.  There were lots of colorful, lively murals, the most stark of which was the back of the altar.  In the area usually occupied by a guilded crucifix or by ornate wordwork, there was a nativity scene.  Except here rather than shepherds and maggi, we found common Nicaraguan folk offering not gold, frankincense and myrh but mangos, corn, linens and other gifts of daily life in this country.  There were far more women present in the mural than men and the men present included Che Guevera, Augusto Sandino and other figures of the Revolution encouraging and looking on at the periphery of the scene.
I have to confess that my Spanish is not equal to the task of keeping up with a Catholic homily, but the entire time the priest was speaking, I was contemplating the welcome unamericanism of having a "terrorist"  vilified by the US government in zealously religious terms like Che looking out on me from the position usually reserved for Jesus in every Catholic church I have ever visited.  To say it was unexpected is an understatement.

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