| Return to Homeland Brings a New
Passion to Help All People Thrive
By Maria Antonia Caldera Hunter ’89
I WAS BORN IN NICARAGUA, where I was raised in a Roman Catholic
family and taught in a private Catholic school. While I was in
high school, many Nicaraguans began protesting the longtime Somoza
dictatorship (1936–1979) and supporting the Sandinista Revolution
(1979–1990). Then the Contras, aided by the U.S. government, began
fighting against the Sandinistas’ Marxist government. The situation
was very tense.
When I tried to enter the university in Managua
in 1982, I took a test intended to measure my political affiliation.
Any student who did not advocate for Marxism was not accepted.
So I contacted the American host family with whom I had stayed
during an exchange program, and they supported my return to Seattle.
I ended up attending Seattle Pacific University through the ACE
At Seattle Pacific, I earned my bachelor’s degree
in linguistics, communication and sociology, and my master’s degree
in TESOL (Teaching English to Students of Other Languages). Today,
I am married, have two children and work at the University as housekeeping
and grounds manager.
My experience at SPU has been a catalyst to
discover the richness of being bicultural and the challenge of
becoming a world citizen. Seattle Pacific is a place that invites
people to be compassionate, to help the poorest of the poor and
to leave a footprint of Christianity in action.
In August 2003,
I asked Associate Professor of Global and Urban Ministry Delia
Nüesch-Olver to teach her course titled “Interpreting the City” in
Managua. Together, we introduced 10 students to the contrasting
beauty and harshness of my beloved homeland. For two weeks, the
students did mission work with children from poor families through
the SPRINT (Seattle Pacific Reachout International) program. Then
we spent two weeks in Managua meeting with Nicaraguan President
Enrique Bolaños, Vice President José Rizo, former President Violeta
Chamorro, priest and revolutionary poet Ernesto Cardenal, former
Sandinista Vice President Sergio Ramirez, Managua Mayor Herty Levitis
and other prominent officials. The students learned about the history
of Nicaragua, the infrastructure of Managua, the birth of the country’s
democracy, the role of the Catholic Church in the political framework,
and the significance of service in meeting human needs.
On the very
first day of class, we had the privilege of visiting the Managua
dump, or La Chureca. La Chureca is visited daily by groups of Nicaraguan
adults and children for whom this vast area covered with garbage
and waste is a means of survival. In fighting off starvation and
poverty, they must throw themselves into the mounds of garbage
dumped by trucks to salvage items that can be recycled or sold
for some meager profit. This means of survival is also shared with
cows, crows, flies, rats and any number of other scavengers looking
We were all overwhelmed as we struggled to try to make
sense out of such harshness. I had known that places like this
existed, but there is a difference between knowing and experiencing.
The acrid smell, the scalding heat, the dirt, the animals, the
garbage trucks, the clouds of dust rising from the dirt road, the
toxic substances, the broken glass, the fires caused by flammable
materials and the long metal pitchforks are images I will always
carry with me. But it was the people — their humanity, their dignity,
their desire to work and the future that lies before them — who
moved me most.
The experience of La Chureca caused a permanent
change in the way I understand life and the differences among humanity.
Spiritually, I felt something I’ve never felt inside a church.
Somehow, the presence of Christ became tangible to me in the faces
and the touch of the people of La Chureca. The degree of dignity
they carried on their shoulders was like a prayer. Their posture
of humility confronted my own misplaced pride. The frustration
that I experienced in witnessing their poverty soon served as a
bridge to an awareness of my own spiritual poverty. The difference
between my life and theirs — someone who has everything and those
who have nothing — became the definition of injustice for me.
know that God wants all, not just some, of his people to thrive.
My goal is to do something tangible for the poor of Nicaragua.
I am asking God to reveal the way in which he wants me, as a
representative of Seattle Pacific University, and as his child,
to respond to the need. Will you pray with me? Gracias!
Back to the top
Back to Home
From the President
As today’s opinion-shapers declare the Christian message irrelevant, Seattle Pacific University President Philip Eaton reminds us: “For two billion people, the resurrection of Jesus Christ changed everything.”
“This Is Our Campaign”
Creativity and commitment are the hallmarks of faculty contributions, including
finding precision science equipment and seeking grants. [Campaign]
Acting on AIDS
A student-led campaign encouraging a Christian response to a world pandemic
had the campus seeing orange. [Campus]
When Disaster Strikes
As senior development officer for Northwest Medical Teams, alumnus Dick Frederick ’63
helps deliver care to those who need it most. [
Falcon women keep their sights on a national championship
after a perfect season ends too soon at the Elite Eight. [