Have you ever made a floor mural out of sawdust? Or have you seen the dance between La Gigatona & El Pepe Cabezon? Or have you heard the story of The Golden Crab? Today we experienced all three as we explored indigenous and traditional Nicaragüense culture by visiting a local Art studio, visiting a musuem, and viewing the city from above. Today we focused on culture, which worked as a great backdrop before the students undertake their Community Action Project (CAP).
Our day started by visiting el Taller Artistica Xuchialt – a local art co-operative that offers workshops to local children and teens. They welcomed us to their rooftop studio to view the “Old Man & Women” Dance, listen to a live rendition of folk songs, and to participate in making a sawdust mural! This activity kicked off our day in discussing culture. We had conversations that touched on how we have experienced culture in our own lives, as well as, explaining the dynamics between cultural exchange and perception through various mediums – we were fortunate to experience dance, music, and art all in one sitting!
Also in this art space, I saw a really cool print that says “Nothing about us, without us, is for us.” This really highlighted for me that the Global Glimpse approach towards development is on the right path — our student’s CAP project is in partnership with a local organization. This includes figuring out how to determine local resources / constraints and encourage community participation.
Later in the day, the students got to visit the very unique Museum of Myths and Legends (webpage & facebook), located in the heart of Leon. Here, Brayan gave us a tour through what was once a prison during the Samoza dictatorship and that has now been transformed into a museum that showcases both the cultural and political history of Nicargua. Even more interesting is how Brayan’s own father was held captive here in his youth as a guerrilla fighter against Samoza.
Leading us through each room, Brayan described the context and the story of various myths and legends as represented by paper mâché statues. I personally found it fascinating how Nicaragua’s physical and historical environment shaped each narrative. For instance, the dance between La Gigatona y El Pepe Cabezon (The Giant Lady and The Big-Headed Short man) is a personified joke among Nicaraguan natives that pokes at Spanish colonization: that although Spanish women may be tall, fair-skinned, and wear splendid clothing, the Giant Lady still follows the beat of the local music. Similarly, the Big-Headed Short Man, representing a native Nicaraguan, is really the one filled with brains. The myth of the Golden Crab is another fable that explains Spain’s lust for gold; where if one were to follow the golden crab that would lead to a cave of riches, the seeker ends up losing his mind as the golden crab & treasure are just an illusion.
After the museum, we traveled up to the roof of the León Cathedral, which was recently claimed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As the third largest cathedral in Latin America, the views from the roof helped explain why Nicaragua is known as the Land of Volcanoes and Lakes — off in the distance you can see at least 5 volcanoes!
We finally wrapped up the day’s activities with a meeting to discuss the upcoming CAP project, where we presented the 3D’s: Discovery, Design, Delivery. I work professionally as a user experience designer, so I was personally excited to share the Design Thinking framework with the students as we gear up to visit our partner organization tomorrow. Design Thinking follows Empathy, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test and the Global Glimpse CAP curriculum can be directly mapped over this framework to ensure our students take a human- & culture- centric approach in assessing their project’s impact.
Suffice to say, we have been thoroughly immersed in a new culture — the land, the people, the stories, the art, the language — and are fortunate to have Global Glimpse coordinators who are from Nicaragua so we can get a first-hand perspective. This way, as students think about designing a sustainable, and co-created CAP project, we are being aware of the cultural differences of our partner organization.
Tomorrow, Robin will be our first student leader of the day and all the students remain excited about each activity!