‘La Casa de Los Tres Mundos’ GRANADA, parte 3

Imagine for a moment that we’re still in Granada, still taking in the sights and sounds of Nicaragua, perambulating through the pedestrian zone, hanging a hard right into Calle Cervantes, while impressions of Spanish-colonial architecture inundate the senses. All those three-meter-tall carved doors, wrought iron gates, creamy colors, mosaic glass windows and wooden trim swirling madly in the early afternoon humidity. Now let me tell you about a special encounter, here, in beautiful Granada. 
I was bending backward, literally, to take a picture of decorative soffits lined in tropical woods, when Barry called me over to an arched doorway. Through the opening, barred by a mesh-lined wrought iron gate and flanked by carved double doors, we barely made out a taller, a workshop of some kind. It was nearly impossible to identify details, because of the sharp gradient of glaring sunlight in the street and soft darkness within. We were trying to determine the type of craft practiced in this place, peering rudely through the screen, hands shading eyes, heads twisting side to side, trying to find a better angle to catch a glimpse of the interior, thinking meanwhile, those objects could be old-fashioned printing presses. Our obvious intrusive behavior didn’t go unnoticed inside and an inquiry ensued. Our guide Edwin explained – gringos locos, no doubt – and permission to enter the premises was granted. A different door just a few steps up the street opened for us and we entered a high-ceilinged space, dimly lit by the doorway, through which we had spied from the street and another one opening toward an interior gallery and a courtyard. A few neon bars overhead helped to illuminate a large workspace, cramped with several printing presses, deep work tables, shelves and container units, stools, buckets, file cabinets and a water dispenser. 

Looking in from the street, I never thought to take a picture, which would’ve been technically questionable anyway, but after asking permission, I began to record the space before us.
View over printing presses toward the door through which we first discovered the workshop. Past the wrought iron sunburst you see the front door of the house on the opposite side of Cervantes Street.




Este taller de serigrafía, this printing studio, reminded me very much of the workspace, in which my friend Daniel Hees dwells. Daniel is a graphic artist, professor, and owner of ‘Mühleisen Presse‘ in Köln, Germany, where he publishes his handprinted art books showcasing his graphic art. His home looks just like this workshop! 

Meanwhile, Barry had zeroed in on a print on display at the far wall of the studio. Several pieces of graphic art were on display there, but he was smitten by a woodcut with an especially strong expression.

He asked about the print and it turned out to be the work of the man, who had allowed us inside the studio and who had taken the trouble to show us around, Don Hamilton Reyes Mendoza.
Hamilton Reyes Mendoza holding his original carving and a print of his woodcut
“Tormento Climático”
(I love the …TINTA INVISIBLE …)
Original wood for “Tormento Climático” by H. Reyes


While Barry discussed details for a purchase of the print with Hamilton, I continued looking at details in the workshop. 

Eventually, we drifted toward the central courtyard of the building. As had happened to me before in Granada, the Gabriel García Márquez sense of déjà vu engulfed me firmly, when stepping into this chaotic space of sunlight and tropical greenery, haphazardly planted in the center of deep, shaded galleries and patios littered with random items, both functional and mysterious.


I had assumed this joyous space was simply the usual interior courtyard that you find in every colonial building, only considerably larger, which wasn’t all that surprising in an obviously old building. But Edwin motioned us to follow him along one of the galleries into further spaces connected to the taller de serigrafía.

He let us peek into a classroom, where someone was being tutored in Spanish, we observed choir rehearsals as we tiptoed through an auditorium and witnessed violin instructions, meditation sessions and a painting class for hyperactive children. 


Edwin mentioned that he too had received art lessons as a Child here at the ‘casa something of the world’. I didn’t really understand the name, but when I came across a large display, complete with a plaque explaining its purpose, things began to become clearer.


The Tree of Gratitude of the ‘Casa de Los Tres Mundos’



Names of donors, sponsors & volunteers of this “Workshop of Creativity” are engraved in the ceramic leaves


The tree was created by Danish artist Vivi Bach.
Really? Vivi Bach? What was she doing in Nicaragua?



Even though Edwin explained to us that Casa de Los Tres Mundos has the mission to bring culture and art to underprivileged children, I still didn’t understand, how Vivi Bach, blond bombshell actress & pop singer of the Wild Sixties came into play? She was well known in Germany through her roles in postwar film and TV productions, co-starring with other popular entertainers of the time, like Paul Hubschmid, Dietmar Schönherr and Hildegard Knef (one of the best chanteuse ever!!), so I didn’t quite associate her with a charitable foundation in Nicaragua. I had to google Casa de Los Tres Mundos to learn more. Since I found five interesting links to the foundation, I’ll place them at the bottom of this page, for you to check out. 

But what about Vivi and the ‘Casa’? Danish-born Vivi Bach was married to Austrian actor Dietmar Schönherr for 48 years, till her death earlier this year in Ibiza, where she and Dietmar lived in their retirement. Dietmar Schönherr, in turn, together with the world famous and highly respected and honored Nicaraguan poet, monk, priest, and politician, grandson of Polish Jews, Ernesto Cardenal Martínez, founded Casa de Los Tres Mundos in 1989. There is your connection between a Danish Almost-Bond-Girl and this foundation in Granada!

The foundation originally aimed to initiate and promote cultural and social projects in Nicaragua, to open doors to an entirely different, creative world, especially for children, through intense cultural exchanges between Europe and Central America, thus combining three worlds [tres mundos] in its walls. Since then Casa de Los Tres Mundos has also taken on the fight against poverty, especially after natural disasters. Austria, Schönherr’s home country, allows its young people to serve their ‘Austrian Service Abroad’ year, an alternative to mandatory military service, here in Granada at Casa de Los Tres Mundo. Overall, the German independent, non-denominational non-profit ‘Pan y Arte’ administers charitable activity at the Casa.

Walking through gallery after gallery and courtyards and classrooms, the building continued to unfold before us, until we finally reach the front door.


Stepping back outside and looking around, we realized that we were now on the ‘main drag’, Plaza de la Independencia, near the famous Cathedral, el parque, hotels, and all the action. Casa de Los Tres Mundos takes up the entire block between Calle Cervantes and the plaza! And what, do you think, did we see, when we turned around to look back at the building we just left?


Okay, you say, so it’s a fairly grand entry with columns and all that. Big deal. But I say, look more closely.


Two lions, a male and a female are chained to the old façade of the building. This is Casa de los Leones! The imposing yellow mansion I pointed out to you at the end of my last post about the city of Granada. This is one of the most important residences in Granada, a symbol of the city’s riches and a hallmark of its Spanish colonial heritage. Casa de los Leones also happens to be Don Ernesto’s ancestral home, the very home, in which he grew up! Ernesto Cardenal and Dietmar Schönherr didn’t just transform any old building in Granada into a home for their foundation, they used THE building in Granada, one with deep historical roots, as well as personal memories. Somehow I think, this lends even more gravitas to their intentions. Also, I think the older name for Plaza de la Independencia is Plaza de los Leones, a name which we, of course, very much appreciate as it is also our’s!   

Casa de Los Tres Mundos (Wikipedia)

Casa de Los Tres Mundos (Via Nica, local link)

Casa de Los Tres Mundos (Foundation website)

Pan y Arte (“Brot & Kunst” German non-profit umbrella organization)

Casa de Los Leones (Incredible Spanish-language website with highly detailed information on the history of the Casa. Please comment, if you find the one glaring error I noticed!!)

So, there I am, standing around in front of Casa de Los Leones, looking first toward the Cathedral …
… and then I looked to the left of the grand doorway, through which we had just passed. My mouth fell open and I burst out laughing. There’s no end to German-language entertainers in Granada, Nicaragua. After Dietmar Schönherr, Klaus Kinski had also been here!
Crazy Werner Herzog’s (another German) movie “Fitzcarraldo” starring Klaus Kinski is one of my favorite cult movies. Only Kinski could carry off such madness. With the discovery of this lovely café, my personal tour of Granada has come to a delightful conclusion.

Postscript #1: 
We had Hamilton’s ‘Tormento Climático’ matted and framed in wood, which seemed to be a perfect fit. The framing was done by David Mallette here in Atenas. It now hangs in Barry’s office and is very much enjoyed. Thank you, Hamilton and David!
Postscript #2:
Sadly, Don Hamilton’s “Tormento Climático” serigraph no longer exists. Together with the stained glass windows and everything else in this part of our house, it fell victim to a wildfire blaze two years later. 

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