For almost 40 years, Project Gettysburg León (PGL) has kept a bright flame burning as part of a sister city relationship between León, Nicaragua’s second-largest city, and Gettysburg. This has included dozens of direct projects and cultural exchanges.

Generations of Gettysburg College students have visited Nicaragua to do volunteer work and learn about the country. Artists visiting from León painted murals in Gettysburg’s schools and offered classes in dance, music and art throughout Adams County. Farmers exchanged visits, learning about the similarities and differences in agriculture for two very different climates.

Sadly, and in PGL’s opinion unjustly, the Nicaraguan government has closed our operations in Nicaragua, along with closing hundreds of other nonprofit organizations in the country. This is because of the politics between the current Nicaraguan government and the USA. PGL is not in any way involved in Nicaraguan politics and worked together with the mayor’s office of León, which didn’t help keep the organization from being closed.

As an organization in Gettysburg, PGL is not closing. PGL partners with Casa de la Cultura in Gettysburg, and that work will continue and grow. We plan to celebrate our annual Salsa On The Square event Sept. 30, which will be a joyous occasion after a long pandemic gap.

PGL also looks forward to continuing the decades of cultural exchange with Nicaragua that always focused on people, not governments.

PGL has a rich history with Nicaragua. Besides cross-culture exchange between the two countries, Project Gettysburg León has built schools, maternity homes and health centers during its nearly four decades in the country. More recently, we worked on garden programs and education projects that improved the lives of thousands of children in León.

PGL was working directly to improve conditions and to provide food for the orphanage Barrilete, located in one of the poorest barrios of León. Last year we completed a potable water project for the rural community of Talolinga, and plans were fully under way to begin a similar project this year.

In 2021, a huge public mural was painted with PGL’s help in central León, and a similar mural was planned for this year. These projects will not be forgotten, nor will PGL give up hope for a better future with Nicaragua.

In Nicaragua, when people die, often there is a cry of Presente! at their service, to signify that what they did in life is ongoing, it is present and it is here and now. Project Gettysburg León has not died, far from it. In a very different way, for the moment we are only Presente! in Nicaragua.

However, PGL is still very much actively present in Gettysburg, and its spirit will live on in Nicaragua. Someday that will mean more than just memories. Presente! also means what you give in your life has meaning, that your spirit continues and inspires others.

That is what Project Gettysburg León has done for 40 years and, despite current circumstances, what it will do in the future.

Greg Bowles is the current director for Project Gettysburg Leon, the sister city program between Gettysburg and the country of Nicaragua that was founded in 1986.

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