Humans of Nicaragua: Francesco and the Elements

“That man who is more than his chemistry, walking on the earth, turning his plow point for a stone, dropping his handles to slide over an outcropping, kneeling in the earth to eat his lunch; that man who is more than his elements knows the land that is more than its analysis. But the machine man, driving a dead tractor on land he does not know and love, understands only chemistry; and he is contemptuous of the land and of himself.”― John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath 


Francesco is a philosopher. I’ve known him for over 12 years, and until I interviewed him for my Humans of Nicaragua piece, I never knew his philosophy of life that binds him to Nicaragua.  He is a man who is more than his chemistry. He is an artist, a master craftsman, a farmer who kneels in the earth to eat his lunch, and a loving father and husband.

Francesco came to Ometepe Island in 2001. He had everything stolen in a hostel, so he stayed until he could recuperate his loses. According to Francesco…
And the rest is history

He’s seen many changes on Ometepe Island since 2001. He said that when he first arrived, he had to find work to replace everything that was stolen.

It was difficult to find people that spoke English, so I stayed and worked in the hostel because I spoke English, Italian, and Spanish. 

My theme for his interview was his new dome home that he built, but I got so much more! I’ve written two pieces before about the beginnings of his dome home and why he had to tear down his other house piece by piece.


Francesco started collecting materials for his dome home in 2011. In 2012, he started building his dream dome.

I have many ideas of what I would like to do, but it takes money. I don’t want to be stressed. My priority is my family, first.

IMG_1554Francesco believes that every visible thing is made up of some combination of the four basic elements: earth, water, air, and fire. In a way, the four elements do align with the four states of matter that modern science has agreed on: solid (earth), liquid (water), gas (air), and plasma (fire).

I like I feel the materials have an energy. Every material tells me something. My love is watching the material transform.

IMG_1557His idea of matter is the cornerstone of philosophy, science, and medicine, which began over 2,000 years ago with the ancient Greeks. Francesco is a modern-day alchemist in the arena of house construction.

All the materials I use are part of fire, earth, air, and water. They are the soul of construction. The basic elements of life.
IMG_1559Francesco enjoys the challenge blending and creating the materials for his home that he produces on his property or finds locally.

It is like a recipe. I keep changing the recipe depending on what I find and mix it up blending wood and iron or glass and clay. 
IMG_1562He is a regular at the local dump, too.

I love recycling. I look at something at the dump and I know I can use it and change it into something. I call it reanimating the elements.

IMG_1560I understand Francesco’s philosophy about living with less. It is getting easier to find more construction materials on Ometepe Island, but when we began to build our house, it was very difficult to find the materials we wanted. Thus, we had to get creative and make our own.

Having less money enables me to be more creative. We are so in the habit to do something with nothing. Now, I have a little and I feel very rich.

IMG_1564Some of Francesco’s philosophical thoughts.

I love the Hindu philosophy. We already know everything. We only need to recuperate our knowledge and reattach it to our lives to be a true Yogi.

We give too much importance to our lives. In my opinion, we are so preoccupied to “double-up” our lives that we fail to see the world around us. We have such big egos.

We are necessary on this earth, but not more so than other living things. We think we are the owners of our home planet, but in reality, we are only the furniture.

I am the captain of this boat. It is not easy. I have to know my limits, too. When you have a family, you have to be critical of yourself. You have to be able to change and understand your strengths and your weaknesses.

You need to be an example for your children. Day by day, we must plant a little grain in our children, but not to restrict them, to give them the foundation to help them grow in their own directions.

IMG_1553I asked Francesco what his biggest challenge is.

To live life in peace with myself and everyone. Sometimes I distort the size of my problems. I never saw anything that was so urgent that it couldn’t be resolved.
Living in Nicaragua, I have learned to go slower than I ever thought was possible. When I have a problem to solve, I divide it into little problems and then divide again and again until I can solve the little problems.
IMG_1561Francesco plans to finish his house in 3-4 more years. I asked him what he wants people to know…

That in life if you believe in something in a true way and you keep working for it, you will be happy. Time doesn’t matter.

Spoken by a true philosopher. Francesco is an alchemist of life, in tune with the four elements that enable him to live a happy life, while planting the grains for his children so they can grow in their own unique directions.

I have to say that every time I complete another Humans of Nicaragua piece, I am awed and inspired by the people I interview. I am learning to let the interviews take their own directions. Francesco is a perfect example of this.

11 thoughts on “Humans of Nicaragua: Francesco and the Elements

  1. what a beautiful man, and you are blessed to have him in the area. his example will affect many.

    writing with ‘chiky fingers’ —- ah, the first hours of the morning are difficult! on my way to quito for the day. love, lisa

      • “partners in suffering…” last week when I was about to buy peanuts for a snack, I thought, “Peanuts.. could that bee triggeringn the joint pain?” I have just opened a search page to see if there’s a connecttion as I eat peanuts almsot every day, and theyare not usually for sale in Jama… Maybe your diet in the usa is different?

        we will figure this out and rejoice when we are pain free.

  2. I just love these segments. We too learn so much just by meeting with and learning from others. We love to have our Ecuadorian neighbors over for a family meal and take time to really get to know them and their children. Life is so much more rewarding with people like Francesco around! Have a great day.

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