Kasia summed up today best during our reflection time during dinner.
“I loved today. It was wonderful,” she said. “The owner of the farm — that small farm — was able to educate all of his children. It’s hard to believe.”
That farmer is Vicente Padilla, who has operated an organic, permaculture coffee farm for the last 20 years. Padilla has one son who is preparing to graduate medical school, another who works as an attorney, another working with a non-governmental organization, another studying to be an agronomist and a 14-year-old daughter who performed a traditional dance for the group.
Padilla took about 30 minutes to explain his family’s history on their land, too. During the Somoza regime, the land of indigenous Nicaraguans was taken and given to more powerful people. After the triumph in 1979, the process was begun to return land to its original inhabitants. At that time, the land owners who were being displaced were compensated. But, that didn’t stop the man who had owned land where Vicente and his family had purchased their land (about three acres total) from trying to intimidate them into leaving.
It got so far that armed military surrounded his house because they were told (by that wealthy man) that the Padillas were armed. He and his family, including his then young children, walked out hand-in-hand and he explained to the armed men that the family had no weapons.
“We had the truth,” he told us, as interpreted by Lucy. “We had no reason to fear.”
After we understood what the family endured to be able to have their farm at all, we got to walk through it. We saw several sloths climbing in trees, dozens of different types of fruit trees and hundreds of coffee bushes. We walked through the mud — and some of us fell — to see the permaculture farm up close.
And for some of us, it brought out our inner Kansan.
“It was a nice shift to be out in the countryside,” Wyatt said. “It smelled like good dirt. I didn’t realize how much I missed the smell of being on a farm I guess.”
We left the farm and visited a community organization in the rural community of San Ramon. Known locally as Casa del Nino, the religious-based community center provides health programs and educational opportunities for all ages. Art classes and other activities for young children and adolescents are active most of the year. Children here are on summer vacation from school so they center was fairly quiet, but we were able to talk with the director and meet the art teacher. Several in the group purchased paintings, as well.
We also had the chance to meet two women who run a recycled paper business out of the center. The women explained, demonstrated and let us try to make pieces of the paper. Their gift items are sold at the center and in two hostels in Matagalpa, including the one where we are staying.
When we returned to Matagalpa, most of us rushed to a pottery shop before dinner. Aldo said he thought it was important to bring us to the shop because of the significance of black pottery to Nicaraguans.
“It’s part of our identity,” Aldo explained. The art form, the same technique used by indigenous people in New Mexico, is passed down within families through the generations and is making a resurgence here. (This website explains some about the pottery, but is not affiliated with the shop we visited.)
The consensus within the group is that each day has been better than the one before. Rick took some time during today’s reflection to remind everyone to think broadly about our experiences.
“Things are building and coming together,” he said. “The experiences endured by those at Ceyotepe enabled Vicente to be able to have his coffee farm. Think about those things in sequence. There’s a reason the trip is done this way.”
Tomorrow morning we leave for Esteli. We’ll spend one night in a hostel — which may or may not have Internet access — and then we head to El Limon for our family stays.
We’ll be in touch when possible.