Building ties of peace and friendship was the goal of the delegation from various Durham congregations that went to Nicaragua in June 1993, looking for a sister community. The US-funded Contra War was over, and the long process of rebuilding the economy had begun. The delegation visited the town of San Ramón, which is the center of a rural municipality of the same name in the mountainous highlands of north-central Nicaragua, in the department of Matagalpa (for an explanation of Nicaraguan geo-political divisions, click here). The municipality of San Ramón is home to about 45,000 people, most of whom depend on subsistence farming and income from day labor on coffee plantations to survive. The combined impacts of extreme poverty and limited road infrastructure result in very limited access to basic services.
That first visiting delegation was impressed by these people who had survived foreign occupation, military dictatorships, and ten years of civil war (for more information on US involvement in the Contra War, read this summary at ViaNica), and yet were still inspiringly resilient, open, and full of life. It was this spirit that motivated our founders to return home and begin Durham-San Ramón Sister Communities. Later, as more people from Raleigh, Chapel Hill-Carrboro, and Morehead City-Beaufort got involved, the name was simplified to Sister Communities of San Ramón, Nicaragua (SCSRN).
Since its foundation, SCSRN has been a part of countless community development projects in the municipality of San Ramón in the areas of health, water and sanitation, education, and environmental preservation (for a complete list, click here). One of our greatest legacies as an organization was the creation has been in the development of the community tourism industry of San Ramón. When we began bringing groups to San Ramón in 1998, no one in San Ramón knew what tourism meant, and people were doubtful that visitors would come to their out-of-the-way rural municipality. Nevertheless, they were intrigued and willing to help us make that happen. All these years later, we have brought countless visitors to San Ramón through our cultural immersion ecotours and San Ramón is widely recognized as a destination for community-based tourism.
We’re happy to say that this story isn’t over yet. SCSRN continues to work with and for the people of San Ramón, and we continue to make people-to-people connections between San Ramón and U.S. communities. We invite you to come be a part of our interdependent family!