We led a workshop for pre-school teachers, in one of the small school buildings in a barrio in Managua. This group of women impressed us with their openness to receive what we had to offer, while at the same time conveying a sense of autonomy and pride in the work they already did. They wanted to share with us the songs, games, and exercises they used with their students, just as much as they wanted to learn new ones from us.
They call Nicaragua the land of lakes and volcanoes. We drove deep into the country and passed great lakes and chains of smoking volcanoes. Mango trees and papaya groves, sugar cane fields and coconut palms. The land was dry and parched with drought. The leaves on the trees were brown with thirst. The mangoes were late to ripen because there was no water.
We performed our show in city neighborhoods, small towns, schools, and deeply rural communities, accessible only through long drives on twisting and rutted dirt roads. They close schools sometimes in the rainy season because the roads become torrents of mud. One of the community coordinators we spent time with in Managua had grown up in one of those communities and told me he had to walk two hours up and down those twisting dirt roads to reach the high school.
The children and adults who watched our shows welcomed us with warmth and openness. Cultural events rarely reach many of the communities that we were in. Occasionally a circus passes through, but for many families, it is too expensive. What we offered was an experience that everyone could take part in, something that is shared between the performers and the spectators. This is what art is, a shared experience between people, and shared experiences create community. Art becomes increasingly necessary for the soul of this world, be it a colorful mural, a moving piece of music, a lively clown show. A shared artistic experience brings us into this time and place, reminds us that we are all here together, that fundamentally we are all the same, human beings whose souls move together.