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Miami Nicaraguans Auctioning Traditional Masks To Aid Refugees Fleeing Ortega Regime

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Paz Nicaragua Foundation
Nicaraguan Gueguense masks, part of an exhibition to be auctioned off in Miami Friday evening to help aid Nicaraguan refugees.

Tens of thousands of Nicaraguans have fled their country’s political violence since last year. Most are now refugees in Costa Rica - and Nicaraguans in Miami are raising funds for them Friday evening with a unique art auction.

Since Nicaraguans rose up against authoritarian left-wing President Daniel Ortega a year-and-a-half ago, human rights groups say security forces there have killed more than 300 people. As many as 85,000 others have fled to neighboring Costa Rica as refugees.

"Their situation is pretty dire," says Nicaraguan expat and Miami-Dade College economics professor Francisco Larios, who heads the Paz Nicaragua Foundation in Miami.

"Efforts to help them move slowly through the [Costa Rican] national bureaucracy there and the international bureaucracy as well. It’s a humanitarian emergency. I myself was there in May. It is a very sad spectacle.”

As part of the large Miami Nicaraguan community's efforts to aid those refugees, the Paz Nicaragua Foundation, in conjunction with the Miami-Dade College chapter of the student business organization Phi Beta Lambda,  is hosting “Máscaras: Rostros de Rebelión/Faces of Rebellion” at Miami-Dade College's Koubek Center. It’s an exhibition and auction of masks - made by more than 60 artists - from a traditional Nicaraguan theatrical dance known as Güegüense (pronounced gway-GWAYN-seh).

The colorful dramatic masks have been designated by the U.N. as an important part of the world's cultural heritage. They’re a showcase of Nicaraguan art and social comment - especially, says Larios, during the ongong protests in the Central American country.

The Güegüense masks, Larios says, represent “a defiance of power, but in a subtle way – making fun of, mocking power. It's become a symbol of resistance, a symbol of rebellion. And for Nicaraguans a national symbol.”

“Máscaras” will begin at 7 pm Friday evening, November 22, at Miami-Dade College’s Koubek Memorial Center, 2705 SW 3rd St in Miami.