For 15 years, SCSRN has been working with the Casas Huesped, which is a group of seven families in San Ramón who open their homes to receive international visitors. The Casas Huesped (which means “guesthouses” in Spanish) were initially formed to provide a cultural immersion experience to our visitors. Now, after more than 15 years of experience, the Casas Huesped have perfected the art of hospitality and intercultural communication, allowing our visitors to truly savor the experience of daily life in Nicaragua.
I had the opportunity to interview the head of one of our founding Casas Huesped, Marina Escorcia. Doña Marina is also the President of our San Ramón Advisory Committee, and a natural-born historian, with an incredible mind for dates and facts. As the granddaughter of one of the founders of the town of San Ramón, she is widely recognized as a fount of historical information, and a great resource to learn about all things San Ramónian. Below is our conversation about her 15 years of experience as a Casa Huesped.
How did you begin as a Casa Huesped? What was the experience like at first?
I began receiving international visitors in my home in 2000. At first, those of us who were the first Casas Huesped were volunteers. We received a group of Swedish engineers who built the local library. Our contribution to their project was providing housing and food. Later, one of the founders of SCSRN, Lonna Harkrader, suggested we offer this service to visiting groups, so that they could experience what life is like in a Nicaraguan household. She also came up with the name “Casas Huesped.” Now there are many Casas Huesped, and many different organizations in town use their services. At first, it was hard for us to believe that anyone would be interested in coming to stay in a sleepy little town like San Ramón. Also, people here are usually timid talking with strangers, and even more so with foreigners. Even I was a little uncomfortable at first, because even though I had had lots of experiences meeting new people as a community leader, I didn’t know how I was going to communicate with people who didn’t speak Spanish. I can remember thinking, “What if I make a mistake? What if they don’t feel comfortable in my home?” But in the end, I always had good relationships with my guests.
Is there a particular experience with a guest that sticks out in your mind?
It’s hard to say- I’ve had so many pleasant experiences. One of my first guests, a young girl from the United States, still writes to me, and even sent me an invitation to her graduation ceremony. I do remember one man, a birder, who accidentally broke the bathroom sink in the middle of the night. He was so embarrassed! I wasn’t upset because, well, these things happen, and he even paid for the repairs. I tried to tell him not to feel bad, but the poor man said he was so embarrassed he didn’t think he could show his face in San Ramón again. Maybe he’ll read this and change his mind, because I really enjoyed having him in my house.
What’s the best part of being a Casa Huesped?
Well, I’ll be honest, the extra income for our family economy is a huge benefit. But I wouldn’t say that that’s the best part. To me it’s sharing moments with the visitors – using gestures and facial expressions to make ourselves understood, eating together, laughing together – we find ways to communicate and enjoy each other’s company even if we don’t speak the same language. It’s the direct connection of sharing a living space for a little while that is really a learning experience for the guest and for me. I’ve made lots of friendships with my guests over the years, and I’ve learned a lot from them.
Dear reader, we hope you’ll take the opportunity to participate in (or lead!) one of our groups to San Ramón. Come meet Doña Marina and the rest of the families of the Casas Huesped, and see for yourself the warmth and hospitality that San Ramón has to offer!