One of my many days in Esteli involved traveling to up Octal with my wonderful spanish teacher Norma . We traveled up by bus and back by “pedir ride” (hitchhiking). There was the option to catch a bus, but why do that when you could live on the edge? Just as with the other times we pedir ride, right as Norma suggested returning to the bus stop a car stopped and gave us a 2 hour ride back to Esteli.
Octal was beautiful. In actuality we spent most of our time in Dipilto, a small rural village about 15 minute bus ride ( and a 15 minute walk) north of Octal. There we visited a woman’s co-op founded by a group of village women. This co-op created jewelry and items out of pine needles. Their craftsmanship was incredibly beautiful and surprisingly cheap. I purchased a hot pot pad (I had to look up the name of the item, and incase you also don’t recognize the highly sophisticated name “hot pot pad” here are some google results) along side earrings, and a jewelry “box”.
Unfortunately at this point the co-op is almost completely shut down. Not enough business. Throughout my travels I have witnessed many good local initiatives, be that businesses or social programs, that were failing due to money or access issues. Even though the beautiful pieces were incredibly cheaper than any of the equal pieces I found during the rest of my trip, they still weren’t finding success. In my mind I see the co-op thriving under an etsy like account, or in tourist locations. Yet when I brought up the idea, the immediate response from the woman was one of denial. Not so much refusal of the thought, but one of “you should do it”. Later when I visited another woman’s co-op in the heart of Esteli the response was the same.
After our visit to the co-op we took a short walk up to the top of the hill for to enjoy a lunch with a view before heading out. On our way back to Esteli we stopped at “La piedra de la virgin”. This rock, advertised by a sign on the road, has become a location for people seeking holy water and healing. A small well has been created with handmade scoop used to remove the water. A small temple sat further up the hill. Three women sang in Spanish as Tito, Norma, and I sat, looking up at the altar.