La Mariposa – Remedial Spanish
At La Mariposa it is not unusual to learn spanish, see a volcano, visit small towns, play with monkeys, march in Semana Santa processions and swim with the locals at the rec centre. A spanish language school/development project/animal refuge/home stay/volunteer placement/hotel, La Mariposa is located between La Conception and San Juan. Just outside of town, the location is a beautiful tropical garden with comfortable hotel rooms, cabana style accomodation and a communal dining area. You don’t have to wander very far in the garden to find a quiet corner and a hammock, a good vantage point for bird watching, including the fowl that make Mariposa their home. La Mariposa employs over 50 locals as teachers, cooks, drivers, guides, managers and maintenance staff. They are all long term employees and along with the teachers they are quite willing to speak in Spanish to benefit of the students.
One of our afternoons was spent at a finca where we learned how to make empanadas from corn flour, water, salt, butter and eggs. Hand mixed in huge bowls the batter can be shaped around meat, cheese etc. to make empanadas or made in to rings, a type of donut, and then baked in huge outdoor wood burning ovens. The ovens made of adobe provide great heat and flavor from the wood smoke. In spite of the great heat produced by the thick-walled overns there was a hen and her chicks snuggled up to the wall of the oven the entire time we were there. Talk about slow roasted chicken!
Masaya and a Swim in a Volcano
In the larger city of Masaya we had a look at the Masaya Volcano and in town we visited a market but not the two museums we had hoped to see because they were closed for Semana Santa. But we did venture up Apopoyan for a swim in the crater lake.
Semana Santa – The Week of Saints
Semana Santa in the country is a succession of processions through the towns and unlike in the larger cities there is a huge number of people participating. The processions I saw in Granada were small in comparison to those of La Concepcion. It seemed like there was a procession every day that represented one or more of the stations of the cross, so there were lots of opportunities for boys to play Jesus and young girls to be one of the Mary’s or even an angel, but only after the crucification of course.
Years of perfecting the processional equipment has led to come interesting adaptations. On the day after the crucifixion for example young girls dressed as angels are hoisted high in kitchen chairs that have been lovingly decorated in family kitchens. Riding shotgun behind the clear plastic coffin of Jesus is a seat of honor which the sombre faced young ladies take very seriously. The coffin and crosses that accompany Jesus to the tomb are powered by a wheelbarrowed gas generator which was refilled with gas while on the move, the procession stops for no reason! The dirgey music supplied by a ragged ensemble of aging brass instruments was thankfully drowned out somewhat by the generator but still provided a mournful background to some very serious processions. There are also random processions with Judias (Hoodias) dressed in red carrying huge chains, faces painted white and accompanied by spear-bearing roman soldiers; they are seen roaming the streets, scaring everyone on their way to find and arrest Jesus.