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MURAL 31 in SANTA MARIA de FE, PARAGUAY
When I mentioned
to my hosts in Asunción
that I wanted to paint a mural in a rural location, there
was no discussion about the second spot. No, there was
no loss of sleep in finding a village. There wasn't even a second
thought. I would go directly to Santa Maria de Fe in the south
of the country, without passing Go or collecting $200. Ron and
Tally had a friend who owned the hotel where I stayed. They knew
the people at the local museum and artisan
workshop. Their son ran the local internet café.
And, of course, they knew the senora directora of the local elementary
school. Nope, there was nothing to consider. I had complete fe
. . . er, faith, that I would be in very good hands when I got on board
the bus going south.
course, I was right.
impression upon finding myself in Santa Maria
de Fe? I was in paradise. Of course, it didn't hurt that
it had rained hard for at least an hour before I arrived. The
temperature dropped so far that it was downright chilly. After
ten days of heat lingering around 100 and comfort only while air conditioned,
it was easy to understand why I liked the place so much. But,
there was so much more!
Maria was stuffed full of history and charm. The village was founded
by Jesuit missionaries in 1647. It was one of many missions for
the indigenous people throughout
the Spanish colonies. The missions flourished until they were
closed by royal decree in 1768. That long, gruesome story is dealt
with in "The Mission".
village still had remnants of this historic past. Parts of the
village square were lined with long colonial buildings that were once
housing for the indigenous people. They were built with adobe,
so of course they had been restored. The
museum for the period, in one these actual buildings, documented
the period and the park square contained one of the original mission
crosses. The church, destroyed in a fire in the 1800's, had the
Guaraní carved stature of Mary that gave the village it's name.
I mentioned the historic buildings around the
square, but the actual park itself was simply magical. As
I walked around it, I was irresistibly lured into the center by the
most unusual whistling sound I've ever heard. The trees were alive,
and crawling, with cicadas. Now, I've heard cicadas before, but
never anything like this. I sat for a while on a bench just taking
in the sound. And, there was more to hear. From inside nests
in the tree tops, parrot chatter tried to match the cicadas. They
didn't stand a chance!
little square had one more treasure. Actually, it was much more
than one. A group of howler monkeys claimed it as their home.
I didn't see them on the first day. I considered it a little tease
and a dash of anticipation. However, when I still didn't see them
by day three, I was no longer teased and was certainly tired of anticipation.
Although my hosts assured me they were there, it wasn't happening.
Not one furry tale. No monkey business in the park. And, certainly
no satisfaction! It was time. Actually, as far as I was
concerned, it was way past time. So, Maria Gloria and Milciades
took me out monkey hunting.
There are two secrets for locating monkeys. First, you look for rattling in the tree tops. There was no rattling in the park. Not even a little wiggle! ( I felt smugly justified. ) But, Milciades spotted some movers and shakers in the tree tops just behind the museum. But, for a truly successful monkey experience in Santa Maria de Fe, you also need a bag of bananas. Yes, it's true. Monkeys really love bananas. If you wave a banana in the air, and shake it like you just don't care, the message is received. And, better than a field of dreams, is a grove of monkeys. If you shake it, they will come.
|Nothing's more fun than a barrel (or tree full) of monkeys|
have seen howler monkeys before in the rainforest of Costa Rica.
It was beautiful, but my camera wasn't powerful enough to get the photos
I wanted. Not a problem in Paraguay! At least, it wasn't
a problem in Santa Maria de Fe. The howler monkeys were not afraid
of people bearing bananas. They climbed down from the tree tops
to take the treat right out of my hand. They used their very powerful
tails to hang upside down and grab the not so forbidden fruit.
If you can't get satisfying photos when they are this close, you seriously
need a better camera! Unlike Mick, I got my satisfaction.
hotel, tucked away in a corner of the square, was just across the street
from my mural destination at Basic School No. 135. Although the
sound of "senora directora" stirs up a bit of fear in my heart,
I liked this woman immediately. And, she loved my art! So,
we were a match.
always, I incorporated local things into the design and I can only get
that on location. The senora directora wanted children at play
and studying. I had to dig deeper for more information.
Little girls played by holding hands while running together. They
also liked clapping games. For the boys in Santa Maria, it came
down to soccer balls and spinning tops. And, they were more than
happy to later teach me how to spin one. As for me and the mural
design, I had to include the howler monkeys and historical buildings
around the square. No question about that!
The Internet found its way to Santa Maria de Fe just four years ago. That was enough time to take over the little village with no chance at ever looking back. It appeared that every adult I met had a cell phone and monitored their social media constantly. I personally saw more problems than solutions if you couldn't even sit with your friends, enjoying a friendly round of terere, without continually checking the phone. However, there was one serious plus side to this situation. The day before the painting, there were no volunteers except my two hosts, Maria Gloria and Milciades. And, for the first time with any of my murals (in rural Paraguay no less!) they turned to Facebook to get the word out. All of their friends learned about the mural project with one little "send" message. Yes, of course, it worked. More than twenty volunteers showed up the next day!
Copyright 2012 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.