A Mural Tour of 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.
Many people who visit Nicaragua only go to Ometepe, San Juan del Sur, and Granada, but did you know about the hundreds of murals covering the walls of Esteli in the north of the country? I took a mural walking tour with @treehuggersnicaragua and local guides like Juan and Wilder here, who explained the historical significance of the murals to us. This one was done by the Casa de Cultura to emphasize the importance of education, gender equality, and environmental preservation. I love art, especially when it is made accessible to the public in this way. I'm visiting this sustainable non profit company for @visitdotorg ! 🇳🇮🎨
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 murals talk about my rights." I learned during a walking tour that this refers to women's rights as workers. Esteli is a huge tobacco production center of Nicaragua, and so many women work day and night rolling cigars in the tobacco factories here. I did a self guided mural tour here with @ericasaldiva in March, and even then this was my favorite piece. This weekend I'm on a press trip visiting the Treehuggers sustainable tourism company and having a blast learning about Esteli and sharing my knowledge of social media so this new @visitdotorg partner organization can promote itself in even more effective ways! 😊
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.