May 31, 2017: Granada, ancient capital of Nicaragua

Today we traveled from Managua to one of the oldest and most beautiful cities in the Americas– Granada.  On the way, we visited a solar farm, where we toured the facilities and were briefed by the director of the facility, Sr. Carlos Moreira. Carazo Solar Farm is one of the largest government-owned farms in Nicaragua and consists of 5,880 solar panels and provides the local town of Diriamba with enough power to serve 1100 households. A private Japanese firm donated $11,000,000 of the $12,000,000 required to fund the building project.  Nicaragua has plans to build three more solar farms and up 10 in the near future.

Faculty team at Carazo Solar Farm

Already about 40% of Nicaragua’s energy needs are provided through renewable resources, and Nicaragua hopes to provide 90% of their energy needs through renewable resources by the year 2026. Along with wind and geothermal, Nicaragua will have the resources to produce enough renewable, clean energy to export to other countries in Central America. Considering that less than twenty years ago Nicaragua was almost totally dependent on foreign oil, that is an amazing accomplishment!

Later in the day, we were privileged to tour the city of Granada with a professor of history and culture, Prof. Fernando López Gutiérrez, who showed us many examples of Spanish colonial, neo-classical, and traditional architecture. Among the many examples we enjoyed were the Our Lady of Assumption Cathedral, the abandoned Hospital Antigua, Iglesia de Xalteva, La Polvora Fort, and El Parque de Xaltera—a park whose indigenous name has no Spanish translation.

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Granada, Nicaragua

Prior to Spanish colonization, Nicaragua’s indigenous population included people from the great Mayan and Aztec civilizations, and numbered over one million.  Thirty years after the Spanish arrived, that number was reduced to a few tens of thousands through war and disease.  This had a profound effect on the culture. Currently, 69% of Nicaraguans are mestizo (a mix of Spanish and Native American), 17% are white, 9% are black, and only 5% are indigenous.  Most of the indigenous people of Nicaragua have assimilated into the mestizo culture, which is influenced by European culture, especially Spanish, flavored with Native American folklore, music, food and religious practices.  This blend of culture was evident as we walked through the city blocks of central Granada.

While there was much more to see in Granada than is possible to relate here, Casa Tres Mundos (“The House of Three Worlds”) cultural center was the most enlightening–an institution created to initiate support and promote cultural projects in Nicaragua and Central America, the building itself incorporates colonial, neo-classical, and traditional architecture.  Casa Tres Mundos recognizes that the causes of underdevelopment and poverty require not only material needs, but educational and cultural development as well.  In order to meet that need, Casa Tres Mundos provides artistic, musical and education support for the poorer segments of Nicaraguan society.

The entrance to Casa Tres Mundos and entrance hall paintings

As you enter Casa Tres Mundos, two huge paintings hang on the walls on each side of the vestibule.  Both are battle scenes depicting Nicaragua’s struggle for independence—one when Nicaragua gained its independence in 1821, and the other the defeat of the American, William Walker.  In 1856, William Walker took over the Nicaraguan government and made himself president of Nicaragua with the intentions of having it annexed to the United States as a slave state for the South.  Even though Nicaragua suffered William Walker as president for less than two years, Nicaragua continued under the yolk of American neo-colonialism and corrupt dictatorships until the 1979, when the Sandinista government ousted the US-backed dictator, Anastasio Somoza.

Nicaragua is a young country, but a fiercely independent one.  This is clear in the the Mission statement of their Foundation: “Casa Tres Mundos promotes a concern for cultural exchange between European tradition and Central American culture and rejects the idea of forcing imported cultural elements onto Third World countries.  The foundation intends to mobilize creative potential of the local people and rediscover buried cultural heritage and help a young nation search for a unique identity” (http://c3mundos.org/en/home/)

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