Although visitors have yet to return to NIcaragua in large numbers, many tourist hotspots, including the Masaya Volcano, Laguna de Apoyo and Granada (photo above) have reopened and the country in general is in a calm state though still somewhat tense. The government is now firmly in control and the opposition soundly defeated. La Mariposa has continued to welcome the occasional student and friend to stay throughout the crisis…important less for financial reasons but keeps our spirits up. We are always ready to host individual Spanish students (though we cannot cater for just one so bring a friend!), volunteers, families and groups of up to 20.


with a campaign -THIS IS THE TIME to come to Nicaragua to
HELP US REBUILD OUR COMMUNITY with practical help on projects as well as help rebuilding relationships shattered by the crisis. In La Mariposa people of all political persuasions work with the local community together in an atmosphere of respect and dialogue.
Ideas for putting this into practice
(1) progress projects planned but suspended eg children’s communal eating area in Palo Solo
(2) complete the sustainable building project & playground for Chispa de Vida
(3) initiate new childrens project in barrios in San Juan most heavily affected by the recent political crisis where people can feel isolated from the rest of La Concha.
HELP US PROTECT OUR ENVIRONMENT which has also suffered from increased hunting of wildlife (birds, iguana, turtles) and tree felling as a result of the political crisis. Some ideas…
(1) develop an educational program especially for use in children’s projects
(2) continue with reforestation, improving our tree nursery with rare and threatened species of trees
(3) raise donations and grants for purchasing land as pretty much the only way especially now to preserve trees & other plants, birds, bees, frogsAs well as helping us, visitors will improve their Spanish, learn about Nicaragua (including recent history) and have some fun!

Recent tripadviser review https://www.tripadvisor.com.mx/Hotel_Review-g551472-d677852-Reviews-La_Mariposa_Spanish_School_and_Eco_Hotel-Masaya_Masaya_Department.html

 I travel a lot internationally and give thought to where I head – and I have chosen to visit Nicaragua and the La Mariposa three times already this year – in April, May and July. Previous plans will keep me away in August, but I’ll likely be returning in September as well.
If you are considering visiting, remember that the nature of news is to focus on the dramatic scenes and then use them over and over which makes it seem as if the entire country is engulfed in violence 24/7. It is not and never has been (pay close attention to the dates on the media credits and you’ll see what I mean). The reality is that, in much of the country, life is going on in a usual manner and has been doing so the entire time.
No one is interested in foreigners – not in the least bit – and there is nothing that points toward this changing. This has been very much an internal struggle.
And, most importantly, the staff at the Mariposa knows what is going on – their news gathering network is a wonder to behold – and they will not allow guests to take the slightest risk.
So, on with it! There is, with the help of excellent teachers, Spanish to be learned. There is volunteer work to be done and community projects to support, there are wonderful people to meet, there are dogs to play with and horses to ride and wonderful food to eat. Go.

On a personal note – Chester is leaving the magagement team, he is worn out and rather depressed by only working with cancellations! Hopefully this will be temporary, depending on whether we can recover in Dec and Jan 2019. If we do not then we will have to close permantly.
Paulette too is hoping to take something of a break to recover from exhaustion.

For the past 2 months we have survived on donations from friends and ex students. You have been incredibly generous with us and we estimate we can continue as we are (workers and projects on half pay) until Oct/Nov. We have made some hard decisions such as whether to spend money now on repairing the roof, vehicle upkeep – hoping against hope it is not money wasted.
We have tried to thank everyone…if not please accept our apologies and thanks!
If you would like to donate from the USA go to http://www.masmariposas.org (our new 501)
From the UK, use Sustainability Partners button on our webpage http://www.mariposaspanishschool.comYOU CAN ALSO HELP BY TAKING SKYPE SPANISH CLASSES -$12 per hour
as in true Mariposa style we still try and earn our way!
Contact Josimar on lamariposaspanishschool06@gmail.com


ESO NO SE HACE – Paulettes take on the troubles, 30th April

What is really pissing people off, at least the ones I have been talking to (neighbors, Mariposa workers, of all political parties and none) is that Daniel Ortega is not confronting the situation and talking directly to people. Most believe that the government was primarily responsible for the violence that led to the deaths of at least 60 people and so far uncounted injuries. But whatever the detailed statistics of who was to blame for what – the government really needs, in my view, to tackle this head on and not blanket everything in a suffocating silence, which is how it feels right now.

The official TV channels did not cover Saturdays march which was huge and peaceful, not a uniform in sight. Interestingly it had been called by the Catholic Church but the priest that I listened to talked a lot about the Virgin Mary but not much else! Oh well.

Similarly no report yesterday on how the National Dialogue went. OK it will take a while for some resolution to emerge but SAY something!!! Rumor has it the chief of police has resigned. Don’t leave this stuff to gossip and rumor….come clean and tell us what is going on.

Daniel Ortega has not lost all credibility, still many respect all of the good things he has achieved in Nicaragua, and no one sees an alternative, at least not now. However, he does need to start connecting with people to build on what remains. And he needs to promise that nothing like this will happen again.

Of course the short and long term effects of all of this on the economy, on people’s jobs can only be speculated on. But it sure as hell is going to be a bumpy ride. Tourism as we at La Mariposa know only too well is totally dependent on reputation and, as a friend commented, we have only just convinced many especially from the US that Nicaragua is NOT the violent place it is often portrayed as. How hard will that job be now???? Especially as many North American travelers are super timid and take fright easily.

Personally I feel 100% safe here, always have done and I was first here in the Contra War. Nicaraguans like having foreigners here (unlike other countries I could mention!) and not one has been targeted or even affected by the “troubles”.

La Mariposa will survive thanks to the huge amount of support we have had, both financially and emotionally, from ex-students and friends and to the students who are still planning to come…..but almost certainly not in its present form.

For now, a deep breath and we continue the struggle to provide decent employment, help local kids to learn English, support disabled kids and their families, and rescue unwanted domestic animals. Above all, whilst this crisis grabs the headlines the planet continues to burn, literally and we must continue to act proactively on that front as well.

Mariposa Permaculture Project



The word “permaculture” is often associated with organic farming. Of course this is a part of it – and an important part – but by no means the whole story. At La Mariposa we have integrated permaculture principles into all aspects of our work and have added an ethic to the basic 3 (care for the earth, care for people, and fair share) which is respect and care for animals, both domestic and wild. This has to be a critical element, especially in the modern day world of the cruelties and abuses of factory farming especially of pigs, chickens and increasingly cattle both beef and dairy, the widespread destruction of forests for cattle ranching and the overfishing of rivers and oceans. In this sense we should not be “imitating the relationships found in natural ecologies” too closely as the human race is, frankly, too powerful and too destructive a predator – the current rate of extinctions of other species is terrifying. Thus we include protection of our wildlife, rescue of injured or neglected animals and a largely vegetarian diet as part of our Mariposa permaculture principles. Additionally, the human body also benefits from ingesting less meat and more vegetables and legumes and we have also discovered the therapeutic benefits of horses and dogs for humans – a further example of integration in our practice.

Of course you cannot in practice care for people or animals without caring for the earth – so it is a holistic, integrated approach that is required of us all. We certainly need to observe and analyse what is going on around us both in the immediate vicinity and globally (Nicaragua is already dramatically affected by climate change) and then open ourselves to learning what works in the here and now to improve the situation


Ethic – Caring for People

La Mariposa started some 12 years ago as an employment project – to try and help the local community by finding a way of offering sustainable employment. From 5 employees we now have over 80 (not all full time permanent workers) from Spanish teachers to organic gardeners. We opt to maximize the chances of employment so wages are reasonable but not high – we also provide attractive working conditions and adhere to labor laws. Our workforce is exclusively drawn from the local community and we ensure that visiting volunteers contribute skills and labor but never replace a paid worker.

We fund several children’s projects in the poorest barrios of La Concha. For example, in the barrio of Panama we try and give young children a head start by offering English classes (this also has the side benefit of providing extra work for our teachers) which have proved very popular. Other projects assist with reading and writing skills and provide opportunities for craft work, learning folklore dancing and play!

Our biggest project by far is Chispa de Vida supporting disabled children and their families (as well as providing jobs for 5 people). We offer physical therapy, equino therapy – using our rescued horses, thus integrating two projects – hydro therapy and educational help. Sustainable materials including straw, adobe and recycled tires were used to construct the buildings and playground, and as an added bonus, it is really beautiful, fitting in with the environment. Furthermore, this project is situated in our urban Nature Reserve so everyone will be able to relax and enjoy natural surroundings.


Ethic – Caring for Animals

La Mariposa funds a range of initiatives following the principle that animals, both domestic and wild, are an integral part of our environment. We do not serve red meat – many of the animals are raised and slaughtered in “industrial” conditions which are cruel, often also polluting the surrounding environment. We do serve chicken and fish though there is no real justification for doing so except human demand (note the chickens are often given huge doses of hormones so they grow at great speed which of course is accumulatively damaging to human health). We always offer a vegetarian alternative for those aware of this.

Approximately 2000 dogs and cats have been spayed and neutered under a Mariposa program, working jointly with World Vets in Granada. We actively care for over 100 rescued dogs and cats (many more have been adopted), 20 horses and provide veterinary services to local people who could not otherwise afford it. We hold “free pet days” offering treatment to eliminate parasites. We take care of several monkeys and parrots who cannot be released into the wild due to loss of habitat or they are too tame to survive.

Animals we have released into our Nature Reserve or other suitable locations include over 50 iguana, 200 parakeets, armadillos, foxes, and howler monkeys. We continually try to provide mammals, reptiles, birds and insects with a fair share of our land, our food, our water to ensure their survival.


Ethic – Caring for the Earth

Trying to implement this principle requires challenging the demands of the ever encroaching consumerist ethic which encourages a focus on THINGS, not relationships. However, it is important that those who come from the West with our fancy “organic” ideas need to remember that in Latin America, for example, the emphasis has been on pushing Westernization of culture, of agriculture and so it is somewhat arrogant to be suddenly saying “actually you indigenous peoples had it about right….life 500 years ago was probably better than it is today”. The response may well be along the lines of “yeah right, you in the West have it all and now you are telling us not to consume so much………” Tricky.

However, caring for the earth is paramount and one way is bringing to life existing but often dormant knowledge/s about traditional farming methods as well as incorporating ideas about saving water, using less chemicals generally (eg soap) and not creating waste by following the principle of REDUCE REUSE RECYCLE (with the emphasis on the first!).


Fair Share Ethic

This one is crucial and requires an understanding of historical forces which havd shaped the world so that resources are so unfairly distributed – between rich and poor, between developed nations and “developing” nations and why we seem incapable of sharing the planet with species other than the human one. Why indeed we seem driven to destroy our own home with massive deforestation across the planet contributing massively to climate change all in the name of greater profits. But if each person who gets more than enough to eat could CUT meat and snack consumption by half (also reducing the problems of obesity and diabetes) – this would start to impact the multinational drive for more and more of the earth’s diminishing resources. As Naomi Klein points out “global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that ‘earth-human systems’ are becoming dangerously unstable” (P450 This Changes Everything).

Clearly we all have to do everything within our individual and community power (obviously this includes political protest and other actions at this level). Whatever decision each of us makes now has to pass through 4 filters – and this now has to include the decision whether or not to have children and how many (it is the consumption of the developed world driving global destruction NOT so called 3rd World overpopulation)

  1. How will this action impact the environment (soil, water, air, creates waste or pollutants)? Positively, or negatively?
  2. How will this action impact my community (which includes but does NOT ONLY apply to immediate family?
  3. How does it impact of the life of another species, does it lead to preventable suffering or death? eg is the fact that I like the taste of beef worth the suffering of a cow?
  4. In this decision/action – am I taking more or less of my FAIR SHARE of the planets resources? Am I being driven by a THING principle or an EARTH/HUMAN principle?

Permaculture was first developed practically by Austrian farmer Sepp Holzer on his own farm in the early 1960s and then theoretically developed by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren and their associates during the 1970s in a series of publications. — wikipedia.org

Central to permaculture are the three ethics: care for the earth, care for people, and fair share. They form the foundation for permaculture design and are also found in most traditional societies.


Protecting Protected Areas


Please sign the petition asking the President of Nicaragua to protect protected areas;



Nicaragua has suffered another environmental disaster (and there have a been many – the above photos were taken during the fire in the Masaya Volcano National Park) with the burning of the Biological Reserve along the Rio San Juan. Much of this area has already been raised to the ground for African palm (palm oil) and large cattle ranches. 5000 hectares of tropical rainforest have disappeared together with incalculable numbers of endangered species including jaguars, tapirs, anteaters, macaws……..this reserve is also home to indigenous Rama peoples. We are asking the government to do more to protect protected areas…this is important whether or not the Indio Maiz fire is now extinguished!

There is a great deal of confusing information out there about the Indio Maiz fire and the governmental response to it. I am happy to try and make my own position on this quite clear!

First and foremost I wish to stress that I have been an avid supporter of the Sandinista government and, indeed of the Ortegas, for many years, particularly in relation to their very successful efforts to tackle rural poverty. However I do not think that means that criticism is not allowed though I think this is the approach taken by many.

I am very critical of the global response to climate change, I totally accept that countries such as Nicaragua are suffering greatly from something they have done next to nothing to create. My view is that we all have to try and respond to this threat to our future existence as best we can, within our own individual and community limits. My relevant point here is that the Nicaraguan government could certainly do more to stop deforestation, at least in the protected areas, which we now know to be one of the major causes of climate change.

I have personal evidence of this issue, originating in my experience of trying to help fight a major fire in the Masaya Volcano National Park. I myself took photos of this fire still burning after the government had announced it was out. Bear in mind also that roots of trees, especially big ones, can carry on burning for days underground after the surface fire has been extinguished. I also visited Bosawas a couple of years ago and saw first hand the destruction of the rainforest there.

In my view it is a serious issue, not only for Nicaragua but globally. And, to repeat, each of us needs to do what we can, including the Nicaraguan government.

La Mariposa takes this very seriously…we have spent most of our profit in the past years buying land to conserve – we have a very rare nature reserve in that it is not also used to produce coffee or anything else, it purely exists to help protect local water supplies as well as fast disappearing flora and fauna. In the past 10 years we have planted over 30,000 native forest trees, including several acres dedicated for local community use as firewood……..please let me know if you would like to know more!


IMG_2439 - Copy

We were not just looking for a building to house our project for disabled children, Chispa de Vida, but for something connecting our project themes, in this case – providing services for disabled children and their families, using sustainable building techniques, situating the project in our nature reserve so that the kids can enjoy and learn from nature and –not least – involving students from ‘the developed world’.

Below – bringing in the recycled tires for the playground, stomping down the straw in the walls and nailing the wooden frame together

A group of women friends and their kids from Portland, Oregon came and helped with the building, learnt about our techniques and contributed their own ideas. Such was the energy and enthusiasm generated between the group and the Mariposa construction workers that progress was remarkably quick. There was a lot of mutual learning. And a lot of fun was had by all!

Below – The Chispa de Vida help out painting tables and seats made from recycled tires, the education building begins to take shape and Heidi and Erika after a hard days work!

The project itself will consist of rooms and patios for physical therapy, educational support, a kitchen and dining area (to be completed in stages) as well as a mini house where kids can learn household skills such as making their own bed. A playground and specially designed garden are also underway. Hopefully, we will have sufficient funds to employ a third worker to help Margene and Marisol.

Below – Hopscotch, trying out the play horse and a colorful bird

Walls are constructed from straw stuffed into wire cages, sewn together and then covered with homemade adobe. All the materials are, as far as possible, sustainable and recycled – we incorporated a couple of old cartwheels for a fun child height window. The playground emerged from the combined imaginations of Mauricio (a director of Asocacion Tierra) and the Portland kids and was great to see. Ideas on using recycled tires seemed to multiply daily – discarded bicycle tires became pretty birds!

Below – Fun windows at child height, a passing horse nibbles the walls! but the building continues to progress

The group process was as wonderful as the building progress. Initially there was some nervousness amongst the women that La Mariposa building team would live up to the macho image many have of Nicaraguan men. Instead, there was a tremendous sharing of ideas and techniques as well as humor and life experiences. The head of our team, Pablo, laughed and smiled much more than is his custom and the group shared an emotional moment or two on their last day, as well as a large cake! Lori, one of the women, said to me “Did you hear what Pablo shared during our closing circle? He said that our group ‘brought something out of’ the Nicaraguan workers. His comment made us all tear up and I’m pretty sure it was mutual”.

Below – Tina and Gabriel working side by side and Erika sewing up the walls

And Tina commented “Our experience at La Mariposa was profound. It was a reminder to me that anything is possible when in community. I feel so blessed to have had my daughter, new and old friends together in a space of creativity. This was one of those experiences that will be remembered for many years to come”.

Below – the closing circle with Melissa (who organised the group of women and kids) in the blue Tshirt


This, perhaps, was the most significant part of the whole workshop!

El Fin de Semana en Tola – Novedades del Huracán

Actualmente Tola está asociado con las playas más impresionantes del sur de Nicaragua, internacionalmente famosas por el surf. El huracán Nate golpeo fuerte y tuvimos una llamada de emergencia por parte de una ex-interna de La Mariposa. Respondimos tan rápido como pudimos, recogiendo ayuda económica y pidiendo a la gente que donara lo que pudiera (teniendo en cuenta que nosotros también sufrimos por el huracán). Muchos comercios locales fueron súper generosos, y llenamos la camioneta y parte de un camión con comida, ropa, utensilios de limpieza y como si fuera poco muchos voluntarios.


Y así nos vamos

La tarde del sábado en tola la pasamos dividiendo todo en paquetes, para ser entregados por Fundacion Medica para niños, una ONG local, para las comunidades más remotas que han recibido poca ayuda. El domingo los voluntarios de la mariposa realmente si tenían que trabajar limpiando el lodo de algunas casas – con angustia de ver las casas sin paredes, ruinas de materiales escolares, colchones y ropa colgada para secar todavía mojada después de una semana de lluvia y hablamos con la gente que la corriente les arrastro todo. Pasando por el lugar, pudimos ver lo alto que el lodo y el agua alcanzaron en las todavía mojadas y sucias paredes de las casas y escuelas. Una familia perdió dos terneros y muchos de sus cerdos. Hay campos que eran usados para sembrar maíz y plátano que están completamente sumergidos en un mar de lodo.

Casas y campos cubiertos con lodo

Ruinas de materiales escolares

Todo colgado para secar

No es solamente un desastre humano sino ecológico también. Innumerable cantidad de árboles cayeron lo que por supuesto causará un clima extremo aún más probable en el futuro. Las grandes cantidades de lodo arrastradas por los ríos no solo venían de las riberas sino también de los campos erosionados de las colinas. Las colinas de los alrededores han sido taladas para ser parcelas pequeñas pero también hay grandes fincas ganaderas que tienen gran responsabilidad – no dejando vegetación en el suelo. ¡Exactamente lo que está pasando en La Concha!!!!


Terminando con algo bueno…..regresamos a La Mariposa cansados pero contentos con nuestros logros. Estamos planeando un viaje extra este jueves para llevar más suministros. Y en el ámbito interno, hemos visitado todas las casas dañadas en palo solo (la comunidad cerca de nuestra reserva natural, Cañada Honda – estimamos que una quinta parte fue bastante dañada) y gastaremos aproximadamente $2000 dólares en suministros para reparaciones.

Solamente me queda agradecer a todos en todas partes que han donado. ¡Gracias!

Weekend in Tola – Hurricane Update


These days Tola is normally associated with south Nicaragua’s stunning beaches, internationally famous for surfing. Hurricane Nate hit hard and we got an SOS from a Mariposa ex intern. We responded as fast as possible, collecting both financial help and asking local people to donate whatever they could (bearing in mind that we also suffered badly from the hurricane). Many local businesses were super generous, and we filled the pick-up truck and part of a truck with food, clothes, cleaning tools and – on top of all that – several volunteers.

Loading Up

And Away We Go

Saturday afternoon in Tola was spent dividing everything up into family size packages, to be delivered by Fundacion Medical Para Ninos, a local NGO, to the more remote communities who have so far received little help. Sunday the Mariposa volunteers really got to work helping to clean out some of mud from houses – distressing to see houses without walls, ruined school supplies, mattresses and clothing hung out to dry still wet nearly a week after the rains, and talk to people who had everything swept away by the current. Driving past, we could see how high the mud and water reached on the still wet and dirty walls of houses and schools. One family lost two calves and several of their pigs. There are fields that used to be of corn and platanos completely drowned in a sea of mud.

Houses and fields covered with sticky mud

Ruined school supplies

Everything hung out to dry


It is not just a human disaster but an ecological one too. Innumerable trees came down which of course will only make extreme weather even more probable in the future. The vast quantities of mud deposited by the swollen rivers came not just from the river beds but from the eroded fields higher up. The surrounding hills have been clear cut for small crop patches but also there are large cattle ranches which bear a great deal of the responsibility – leaving no vegetation to hang on to the soil. Exactly what is happening around La Concha!!!!


Ending on a positive note…..we returned to La Mariposa tired but pleased with our accomplishments. We plan an extra trip this Thursday to take down more supplies. And on the home front we have visited all of the damaged houses in Palo Solo (the community near our nature reserve, Canada Honda – we estimate about one fifth of which was badly damaged) and will be spending about $2000 on supplies for repairs.

Just remains for me to THANK EVERYBODY EVERYWHERE who has donated.