Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Annie and Blue visit Nicaragua

Can you find Nicaragua on a map?  It is the largest country in Central America and it has a coast on both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.   While in Nicaragua we visited an island in Lake Nicaragua.  Lake Nicaragua is the 19th largest lake in the world and one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world.  The island we visited is called Ometepe which in the ancient language of the Nahuati people of Nicaragua means two
mountains.  The island has two volcanoes. One is dormant (inactive) but Conceptcion is still active.  It last erupted in 1957 but in 2010 it spit out a lot of ash and rocks.  It creates a problem when it rains a lot for several days because there can be huge landsides of ash and rocks. That happened in 2014 when the ash and rocks blocked the road and destroyed some houses in its path.  At one time, many thousands of years ago the two volcanoes were not connected by land but now they are.  The sands washed in and over a very long period of time created an isthmus.  That is where the best beaches are.

Mark Twain who wrote “Tom Sawyer” loved to travel.  When
Twain visited Ometepe he said the island was, “Two magnificent pyramids, clad in the softest and richest green, all flecked with shadow and sunshine, whose summits pierce the billowy clouds.” It still looks that way today.  Things may change.  A very rich Chinese man wants to build a canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific through Nicaragua.  It would be bigger than the Panama Canal so that wider ships could use it.  Nicaragua was considered the best place to build a canal in the early 1900s but for various reasons the canal was built through the Isthmus of Panama. If a canal is built across Nicaragua there will be many changes in Nicaragua and Ometepe. Many people don’t think there will be a second canal because it would cost a lot of money.

At one time the island was home to the Nahauti people. We visited a museum where Carla showed us around. There are a lot of artifacts (objects made by people long ago) that one man has collected to create his museum.  The island has been occupied for at least 5000 years.  The ancient people created
beautiful pottery and carvings on rocks called petroglyphs.  There were interesting large clay containers that the people were buried in.  It was their version of a casket. 

The museum also had a section devoted to money.  Every new president issues new money but the earliest people used cocoa beans for their money.  Chocolate is made from the cocoa beans. For 100 cocoa beans one could buy a slave.

One day we stopped at the home of Jairo Sandino in Los Ramos. An 83-year-old   man, Fauto Aleman, has been teaching his family the culture of the island. Like most of Central America the culture comes from the Spanish who conquered the area over 500 years ago. Mr. Aleman played the guitar, sang and danced for us.  For one song he put on a mask which represents the Old Man in the Mountain. His very pretty granddaughters, Scarleth Aleman
Martinez and Alba Ligia Sandino danced for us as did Alba’s father.  One dance was about a bull fight with Alba’s father pretending to be the bull.  The entertainment took place in their home which made it seem more special.  We think it is
important for people to remember their culture and share it with others. Just about everyone in Nicaragua has a cell phone and even the smallest, one-room homes (some without indoor toilets) have a satellite dish so the people know more about the United States than most of the people in the United States know about Nicaragua.  With all the modern technology many places, worldwide, and losing their old ways and adopting American ways.