Touring Ometepe Island


Travel makes one modest, you see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.~Gustave Flaubert

We’ve had company most of the month of February. I love when friends come to visit because it gives us an opportunity to tour them around the island and visit places we haven’t explored thoroughly. It also makes me appreciate what a tiny, yet beautiful place we occupy in the world.

We usually hire one of our neighbors to take us around the island. Luis just bought a new Suzuki 4 door vehicle. He will take us anywhere we want to go and his cost is $60 for the day. He says the more tours we take the sooner he will own the car instead of the bank.

Since we’ve lived on the island for over a decade, we know the places tourists like to visit. This February, we toured familiar places and one new-to-us place. Join me for a tour of Ometepe Island.

First Stop, El Ceibo Museo

It has been years since we visited the Pre-Colombian pottery museum. Named for a giant Ceibo tree at the entrance to the long dusty road that leads to two museums, the Pre-Colombian pottery and the coin museum, this is the place to learn all about the pottery excavated on Ometepe Island.

Along with the museums, they have added a hotel, pool, and a new restaurant/bar, where we were treated to shots of cojoyo: a potent fusion of corn, rice, pineapple, and sugar, made on the farm. The indigenous people of Ometepe had consumed it for generations. Our guide poured the syrupy liquid into shot glasses made from black bull horns. We drank it like tequila, with a lick of salt and a bite of mimbro, a very sour fruit resembling a small pickle. Strong, but rico! The other drink he poured reminded me of chicha, a potent fermented corn drink that I sampled in Peru.

The museum had been remodeled since the last time we were there. The guides told the same intriguing stories about the pottery and its uses. There were scalpels made from sharpened obsidian, volcanic tools and arrowheads, burial urns of all sizes called zapatos, and an intact burial site with gifts for the deceased for his/her onward travels.

 

Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Textures of Tzintzuntzan


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Texture.

Tzintzuntzan was the capital of the Purépecha Empire when the Spanish arrived in 1522. Situated on Lake Pátzcuaro, Mexico the character of the indigenous people is clear in every archeological remnant and rock of this fascinating archeological site.

The main attraction is the five yácatas or semi-circular pyramids that are well organized and face out over the lake area.
Continue reading

Weekly Photo Challenge: Minimalist


The Weekly Photo Challenge is Minimalist. I do a lot of volunteer projects on Ometepe Island, and I find that the simple pleasures we share are the most meaningful.

I was working on setting up the new elementary school library the other day. Edwin was helping me and he proudly displayed his missing two front teeth.

IMG_4887

Continue reading

An Open Letter to the Chinese


Ometepe and the ChineseThree weeks ago, a Chinese delegation representing the proposed Nicaraguan Canal came to Ometepe Island. They measured land south of our new airport in La Paloma, including Punta Jesus Maria, a sacred and lovely point of land, which served as an indigenous trading port thousands of years ago, and now, is a must-see tourism locality.

Wang Jing has complete sovereignty and power to exercise dominion over all areas along the proposed canal route. He does not have to ask permission of any mayor, the expropriation of land is at his whim, and he will not have to pay taxes.
Please read on and SPREAD the WORD!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Relics of the Dead


“Any relic of the dead is precious, if they were valued living.” ~ Emily Bronte

 

Everyday, I walk our beaches and everyday, I find relics washed ashore. Most of the time, the finds are over hundreds of years old…aged Pre-Columbian pottery shards that tell the stories of the ancient ones who lived on Ometepe Island long ago.

Burial urns called zapatoes from Ometepe Island

Burial urns called zapatoes from Ometepe Island

Relics ahead. Keep reading.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Petroglyph Patterns


The Weekly Photo Challenge is From Lines to Patterns. I can think of no better way to represent lines and patterns than the petroglyphs on Ometepe Island.

When we first moved to Ometepe Island, I thought petroglyph was another name for gasoline.
petroglyphsArcheologists refer to Ometepe as the Island of circles and spirals due to the ancient rock carvings, petroglyphs, carved on the basalt boulders.
petroglyphThe oldest petroglyphs date back to around 1000 B.C. The most common motif is the spiral. Some motifs are highly stylized and intricately carved.
petroglyph fincaOther carvings represent the God of Virility or a very macho man with a great sense of humor.
DSCN1341All of the petroglyphs are found on the Maderas side of the island. Once we found a pig pen surrounded by petroglyphs highlighted in chalk. Now, that’s a creative way to use some petroglyphs.
DSCN1348Following the Fuego y Agua Survivor racers up Maderas Volcano, we spotted an angel-like petroglyph or maybe an alien in a spacesuit?
IMG_1948Returning from our walk to photograph petroglyphs, we discovered the beginnings of a dugout canoe. Just carve out the lines and patterns, and soon you will have a fishing boat.
DSCN1206I hope you enjoyed the petroglyph tour on the Island of Circles and Spirals.
For more information on petroglyphs check out these links.
Culturelink Fieldwork Project
Ometepe Petroglyph Project
Dreaming of the Prehistoric Rock Art on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

 

 

A Treasure Hunt: When Life Gives Lemons


“But that is not treasure for us which another man has lost; rather it is for us to seek what no other man has found or can find.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

We were without electricity and water for two days. When life gives lemons, what else can one do, but….go on a treasure hunt. The lake is receding. It’s the dry season and many Pre-Columbian pottery shards wash ashore daily. If the shards wash ashore from the lake, what treasures are to be found embedded in the soft clay and volcanic sand beneath the water? We were determined to find out. Plus, it was a grand way to take a bath. After two days without showers, we were both feeling a little raunchy.

Scooting on our butts in the shallow, murky water was an exercise in patience and touch. This must be what it is like to be blind. We began to differentiate between the volcanic rocks and smooth pottery shards nestled in the clay. Soon Ron shouts, “It’s a turtle! It’s something big and whole. I think I’ve hit the jackpot.”

A few minutes later, after carefully digging around the clay with nimble fingers, he dislodges a whole pot. It was an incredible sightless find. What made it even more remarkable is that there were only a few chips missing from the rim. How did it survive the onslaught of waves and other misfortunes in the shallow water? Many years ago, my young friend and I were walking along the shore and she spotted what she thought was a turtle. To our surprise, it was a Pre-Columbian pottery burial urn, perfectly intact, upside down on the shore. Amazing!!!

I have many unanswered questions. Why are the pottery pieces in the lake? Was the lake much lower at one time and this was where the ancient ones made their pottery? Or, when the Spanish conquistadors came to Ometepe Island, did the ancient ones bury their treasures from the invaders? I have lots of research to do.

Meanwhile, I continue to collect the variety of tools, shards, and other incredible pieces that wash ashore. I’m thinking of donating the whole pieces to our local museum. I recognize the need for protection, preservation, and education of these precious artifacts. They do not belong to me. After all, the fun is in the treasure hunting and seeking what no man has found or can find.

A Pre-Columbian Pottery Shard Turtle


I know I’ve said this before, but Marvin is so talented. He is an artist and a perfectionist, with an eye for design. He made most of the furniture in my house. All I had to do was show him a picture of what I wanted.  See Marvin’s masterpieces  here  and  here  and  here.

Since Marvin is building an addition to our guest house and I have mounds of Pre-Columbian pottery shards piled on my porch, I asked Marvin if he could help me design a turtle mosaic to put above our new door. “No problemo,” he said. In a matter of minutes, we collected the shards scattered in bowls around my porch and fit them, like a puzzle, into the shape of a turtle.

“Look!” Marvin laughed. “These little round shards can be the turtle eggs.”  Marvin reminded me that this month the turtles are laying their eggs on our beaches. “In honor of the female turtle, I will design her laying her eggs,” he said with a kind of reverence because he loves turtles.

Pure joy radiated from Marvin’s face as he laughed and whistled while he plastered the shards together to make one of his beloved turtles. Today, the turtle is waiting patiently to be cleaned, polished, and then a layer of transparent varnish applied for protection.

This was so much fun that we decided to make a crocodile for the side wall. I finally found a use for my collection of pottery shards. I’m thinking of naming our guest house “La Tortuga” in honor of Marvin’s love for turtles. Enjoy the slideshow.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

The Archeological Richness of Ometepe Island


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On my daily walks along the volcanic beaches of Lake Cocibolca, I often find shards of history washed ashore, remnants of the ancient ones who settled Ometepe Island during the first migration, about 10,000 BC.  Hunks of broken stone mortars and pestles and primitively carved tools embed themselves in the black sand telling the tales of the rich lives of the Chibchas and Tiaguanacos indigenous tribes.

When the Chorotegas tribe arrived in the sixth and seventh centuries, they improved the stone-working techniques, added creative embellishments to the ceramics, and carved mysterious symbols on the volcanic boulders      (now known as Petroglyphs) plopped into the fields from eruptions of Vulcan Concepcion.

Intricately painted shards, in the shapes of birds, faces, monkeys, and other animals wash between my toes harboring the secrets of the Nahuas, the indigenous tribe that arrived in the ninth and tenth centuries.According to legend, the Nahuas were led to our sacred island after a series of collective dreams that guided them to ‘two hills’ majestically jutting from a small island in a sweet sea.

Significant evidence indicates that Ometepe Island became a trading port. In the middle of the tenth century, the Mayas arrived with gold figurines, jade, and other exotic trade items. Once the Mayas discovered La Isla de Ometepe, they decided to settle down and expand the art of ceramica production.

The cultural history of Pre-Columbian pottery on Ometepe Island is sparsely documented. Nicaragua lacks a major structural network that would support significant funding from outside sources to study and record the archeological finds. Instead, small museums record the archeological history of the island, with little to no funding sources.

The El Ceibo Museum is a fine example of a small museum on the island, founded by Moises Ghitis. Over 1,200 examples of Ometepe’s Pre-Columbian heritage are highlighted. Most of these pieces were discovered on Moises’ finca several years ago. El Ceibo Museum

With the increased emphasis on tourism in Nicaragua, and particularly Ometepe Island, major efforts are taking place to protect the cultural heritage of the island. New laws enacted make it a crime to remove and sell Pre-Columbian artifacts. Educational programs in the schools emphasize the importance of protecting and preserving the historical pieces.

I am so very grateful to see the archeological richness of Ometepe Island taken seriously. With more funding for museums, educational programs, and increased awareness through various media sources, Ometepe Island can preserve their unique cultural heritage.

How can you help preserve and support the archeological richness of Ometepe Island?

1. Take only photos and leave only footprints behind.
2. Report any archeological finds to El Ceibo Museum or the other small local museums on the island.
3. Respect the cultural heritage of Nicaragua. The country is in the beginning stages of protection and environmental awareness. Many of the local people do not understand the importance of preserving and protecting their heritage. Help spread the word.
4. Provide funding and support for the educational programs and museums. If you enjoy visiting archeological sites on the island, show your support by making a monetary donation.
5. Volunteer. There are many volunteer options available if you are interested in preserving the unique culture of Ometepe Island. This is one of the best.
Ometepe Petroglyph Project

If you are interested in learning more about the archeological history of Nicaragua, below are two good links. If you are aware of any other books or websites, please let me know. It is slim pickings in the archeology and ceramica world of Nicaragua.

The Nicaraguan Ceramic Pottery Exhibit
Museums and Galleries of Nicaragua