Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Enterprise in the Campo

El Puro on his horse
This weekend we hopped on the chicken bus yet again and headed for the beach. It's always a hit -- even if all we do is plop down in chairs, read books, body surf and hang out. This weekend though, we got the chance to spend our time with a group of people from South Dakota, who were renting the home of a Minnesotan, who everyone in San Juan calls "El Puro." Puro means cigar, and you'll often find him on the porch of his beachfront home smoking one.

That's not all he does with his time, however. Sunday morning we all loaded into Puro's two trucks and headed out to his 1,500 acre farm, where this enterprising gentleman farmer is reforesting the place with mahogany, coffee, cacao and citrus. Before he arrived, the hills of the property were dry and dusty and deforested from years of making charcoal and stripping the land for timber.

Since there wasn't enough room in the cabs for all of us, i got the pleasure of riding in the back, standing and holding onto the roll bar while the world went by. It may have seemed inconvenient, but i got the best view.

Doña Maura cooking chicken
We didn't just see the budding forest -- and its vistas of the ocean and even Costa Rican mountains off in the distance -- from the road; when we got to Puro's 100-year old farmhouse, the campesinos who live there had saddled up 10 of the horses for us to ride, while the women brewed fresh coffee and cooked chicken on the spit in the kitchen.

Don Manuel and his coffee-drying tray, which slides under the house
Don Manuel is the head man at the house, and on top of his duties caring for the land, he's also the local curandero -- the medicine man who knows the medicinal properties of the land in addition to its other practical uses. In the kitchen, Maura grinds corn and coffee that comes right off the land, making us fresh tortillas for our lunch. Delicious.

It's hard to take a good photo on horseback.
It is lovely to see an expat who's not just languishing through his retirement, but is doing something to benefit everyone by planting forests and generally being an enterprising fellow.

Puro's Nica girlfriend, meanwhile, teaches sex education as well as agriculture to the local kids on the weekends, on top of her regular job teaching to college students. She does what she can, but when i asked her about the girls -- about the rebelangel's age -- who lived at the farm and whether they went to school, she told me they didn't. The 15-year-old who lives there had just had a baby, she told me, and i got to peek in at the baby's angelic face while he was sleeping in the back room. There is progress and birth, but there is still a long way to go to offer girls the education and opportunities they are afforded in other places.

So this visit was not only fun, but encouraging and uplifting and at the same time a peek into the realities of rural life in Nicaragua.

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