By Andrew Califf
The motionless, yet seemingly sentient, stone figure peers through the dangling vines and swaying leaves to get a glimpse of Lake Nicaragua’s sparkling blue body. There used to be more statues on Isla Zapatera, gazing through history with untold stories.
These statues are iconic and some were even dragged all the way to Managua to flank the National Palaces’ center staircase, yet very little is ultimately known about their purpose and meaning.
“The first academic study of the sit suggested the statues might have been used as supports to hold up a thatched roof,” Professor Geoffrey McCafferty explains as he surveys an overgrown rock mound perforated with large trees. “I think this area was ceremonial, but ceremonial is what archeologists call things when they don’t understand what is going on.”
As iconic as the statues are, the children of Nicaragua learn mainly about Spanish history in school. This is in part, due to how little is known of the island and its guardian idols. With further research, many hope to further grasp the depths of their origin.
Mombacho Volcano, as seen from Isla Zapatera, creates a picturesque background for the low-lying Isla El Muerte, home to mysterious petroglyphs. Similar petroglyphs are found on the highest point of Zapatera.
“In the past, the statues did not have any importance because we did not have any knowledge of what they were, [but] knowing the history, we can also know who they were,” Rene Castillo, a resident for 24 years and a caretaker of Zapatera, says in softly spoken Spanish. “So today, in the schools and universities, history is going to be known because of us as well.”
Castillo is proud of his role in uncovering this history and only resents the removal of the statues because of the collateral damage done by travel.
“If it was decided to move the statues once again from here to there, many would be destroyed, this is why there are replicas here,” He says.