After adopting our new dog, Nica, we took on another commitment. We went to the beautiful old city of Leon for a house and dog sitting job. This was a fun change of pace from life in the camper. We moved into a two bedroom home in a gated neighborhood. The new house included a large, old husky named Martin. All three dogs got along great and enjoyed hanging out in the backyard together. Leon is a VERY HOT city, so we often wet down the dogs, watered the yard and sat with the fans blowing on us. But the evenings were pleasant and dog walks took place twice a day. Leon is also a very beautiful colonial style city with old churches, old buildings and a strong cultural history. One of the fun things we did there was a tour of the museum. This is a unique museum that is housed in a former prison. The woman who developed the displays paid homage to the painful history in the building as well as presenting more modern information. In each room (jail cell) there are black and white line drawings of prison life. Some of these depict sadness, worship, education and even torture. All of these were recorded as a part of the history of this prison. While the wall art pays homage to the prison, the displays in each room show historical costumes, folklore and fun information about the history of Leon. This room contains the fancy “carnival” dolls that are used in celebratory parades for various holidays. Each doll represents a historical figure or event and is used as a part of a large street production. Outside the museum stands a huge parade doll. She is designed to be carried by several men, and dance around the streets during the celebrations. Here is a photo of Geneva sitting in front of this doll. The entrance wall is decorated with an elaborate mosaic mural. These three photos show the mural from three different distances to help you see the detail and workmanship of this folkloric history depiction. The murals tell the stories of tales of haunting and ghostly figures that have been passed from generation to generation.
Back at the house there were many hours of dogs sleeping, playing and relaxing. The humans did quite a bit of that, too. With a fast, reliable wifi connection we were even able to do some binge-watching of movies and tv shows. These are luxuries we have not had in quite some time!
The week of our house and dog sitting coincided with a very busy week in all Catholic countries. We were there for Holy Week or Semana Santa. This week is a time for families to gather and celebrate their religion as well as enjoy each other. It is a fun time to be in Central America, but the beaches, lakes and even cities can be quite crowded. We were fortunate to have our adopted Nicaraguan family that I mentioned in the previous post. These friends were very familiar with the city of Leon and some of the celebrations during Semana Santa. They came for a few visits during our stay, and during one of them we witnessed an amazing celebration of religion, art and sawdust. Here are some photos from this beautiful street art event.
The buckets contain brightly colored sawdust. It has been dyed with powdered tempera paint or natural colorings such as beet juice. Then the dry sawdust is mixed with a small amount of water to make a sticky, paste-like substance. This substance is laid directly onto the street surface.
The artists then place the various colors of sawdust paste onto the street over a hand drawn design. Using colors to define each line in the design, over time the picture emerges. This part of the process takes hours and hours as the artists sit on platforms or stoop over their work to add touches of color to their work. Many of them started before sunrise and will complete their work just in time for the finale at sunset.
Some of the designs included rice, leaves, pebbles and beans among the colored sawdust. All of the designs depict various elements of religious significance. Some of them have words of praise and glory. Others are just images.
These beautiful works of religious art vary in size. They are all about 8 feet wide (nearly filling the street) and between 8 and 16 feet in length. The sawdust layers are about 2 inches thick in most sections. By sunset the hands, feet and knees of the artists are dyed to the blend of almost black from all the colors. Up their arms and legs are splotches of bright yellows, reds and blues. And the artists are stiff and sore from the stooping and bending.
As the crowds gather, the families set up for grilling dinner and watching the finale of the event. We departed before this took place. But the purpose of the entire artwork gathering is to prepare a “carpet” for the church leaders to walk upon as they gather the villagers to walk to the cathedral for the Easter services. This large parade of people will sing religious hymns, praise the lord and accept donations of food and money as they pass through the streets. Their footsteps will destroy the artwork.
Click here to watch a brief movie of the crowds and the beautiful, religious street art.
We passed by this street about 3 days later. There was no trace of the event. All the sawdust, party trash, food wrappers, etc had been cleaned up. The street was spotless and looked like any other street in the beautiful city of Leon. We felt very fortunate to have seen it on that magical day.
Our time in Leon also included some exploration of the city. Things were bustling during Holy Week. We saw elaborate and brightly lit religious altars set up on the sidewalks in front of homes. Each night the family would gather there to pray and eat a meal together. Sometimes neighbors would participate also.
We enjoyed the full moon over the main cathedral when we went into town for dinner one night. And of course, a photo of the lion statues that Leon is known for. The city center is a beautiful place, by day and by night.
Enjoying the gorgeous colonial city, relaxing in the house, visiting the vet and much more made this a great week for us. We appreciated the opportunity to house sit and take care of Martin.