Culture

A Mural Tour of Esteli, Nicaragua

Tour Esteli Nicaragua

Nicaragua may be a small country, but there’s more to it than beaches and warm weather. This country has suffered decades of dictatorship followed by the 1979 Sandinista Revolution, followed by a long Contra war that ended in peace. This country is known for its coffee and tobacco production, but it’s not much known for its murals. That’s slowly changing.

As a Peace Corps volunteer who spent 27 months in Nicaragua, I noticed that many tourists don’t wind their way up north to Esteli and just stay in the San Juan del Sur area or in the colonial city of Granada. These places offer surfing and beautiful architecture, but Esteli, located in the north, is also worth just as much of a visit.

In Esteli, I took the only mural tour offered by TreeHuggers Eco Tourism Specialists and City Tours. This company, which is in the process of becoming a Visit.org partner org, is managed by British expat Jane Boyd, and offers tours within the city as well as tours outside in the neighboring nature reserves and tobacco factories.

 

 

Jane joined us and two guides as we walked around the city, absorbing what the walls were telling us. Several murals spoke about social issues, like environmental preservation, education, and gender equity. Three groups are responsible for most of the murals here: La Casa de Cultura, Funarte, and Sonati (which specializes in making art with recycled materials).

Each mural has a story as well as an interpretation. One mural emphasized the importance of literacy. In 1981, Nicaragua was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its literacy campaign, during which many people in the cities and countryside were taught to read.

As we walked past different murals, some more political than others, we learned that once the political party shifted in 1990, about 400 murals were erased in a symbolic gesture to bring about peace and erase the vestiges of the Sandinista party that year. Murals are more than just art. They are political, and unfortunately, can be wiped away infinitely easier than they can be replaced.

 

 

The tour overall took about two hours. I’m glad I brought a bottle of water, sunscreen, and a hat with me, since the sun shines pretty bright here all year round. I recommend this tour for anyone who wants to experience Nicaragua on a deeper level. Murals are public forms of art which are there for us to interact with, and I hope all of the murals’ stories continue to be preserved and told.