"Carreta Nagua" a very old Nicaraguan folk tale describes a haunted cart that is driven by Death and pulled by two skeletal oxen. It can be heard at night because it makes the sound of chains being dragged along the streets. If the "Carreta Nagua" stops at ones home, surely a resident is to die.

The old tale is believed to have been established by the indigenous people of Nicaragua, who would be kidnapped by the Spaniards, chained onto ox-driven carts and taken to work the mines. There they would die and not be seen again until their corpses were driven on those same carts to be disposed of. Such carts became a symbol of death and when heard approaching, the indigenous people would flee into the woods.

I have co-opted the title of this tale and added "Siglo 21" (Century 21) to evoke this tale in the rickshaw that is pulled by human force as passengers watch an animation that tells a tale of immigration, aging and cultural and familial loss. It is an animation based on the current reality of my parents, who after 45 years of living in San Francisco, CA and never completely assimilating are returning to Nicaragua, but discovering it to be a difficult change.

I was commissioned a new work for TRANSITIO_MX02 the Festival of Video and Electronic Arts in Mexico City. I proposed "Carreta Nagua, Siglo 21" and spent the months before the festival writing and creating the animation. I arrived to Mexico City ten days before the festival. I was assisted in finding and purchasing the parts for the cart from auto scrap yards and then assisted in constructing the cart.

During the length of the festival, I presented "Carreta Nagua, Siglo 21" in the colonial park - Alameda Central located across from the museum Laboratorio Arte Alameda that presented the international exhibition that was part of the festival. From Sunday, October 14th through Friday October 19th, 2007, I offered free rides throughout the park only requesting that passengers watch the animation. Discussion of the animation or of the ride and project only occurred if the passenger requested it. Generally, the adults and even a couple children wanted to discuss the animation as well as the action of the pulling of the cart.

In Mexico City, pedicabs exist, but rickshaws pulled by humans do not exist, so to most people it was a unique sight. And no one understood why I would offer a free ride. When I offered a free ride or when people read my vest which was labeled "Paseo Gratis" - Free Tour, people distrusted the sign and after a bit of convincing or seeing others try it would jump on. Only after watching the animation did people understand the work as art. Everyone who rode the cart was grateful for the effort and the animation which presented a very different version of the characters that many people are very familiar with. Some passengers told me that they nearly cried as they listened to the old Mexican song "El Reloj" (The Watch) as it is sung by an unaccompanied voice of an older woman (my mother). The song is about the passing of time and life nearing its end.

Entirely built of discarded parts, the cart cost a grand total of $220. It is now being used on a small farm.

Conversations following the ride and animation were varied. Two men, regulars at the park were homeless. One of them had been deported from Miami when picked up by the police for public drinking and lewd behavior. His friend was an immigrant from Guatemala. Both men, as much as they understood and agreed with the animation, still hope to return to the United States and are merely staying in Mexico City to try to earn enough money to make the trip across the border. Other people discussed their families who live in the United States, primarily, Los Angeles, Houston, and Chicago as well as small towns in the mid-West. They told me about how over time, they have lost contact with these family members. When I told some female passengers that it was my mother who sung the song at the end, they asked me to give her a strong embrace. Other passengers told me that they had never experienced or imagined anything such as this cart and were impressed by the creative drive to create an animation and the rickshaw as a form of framing the animation.

I created the animation that is in Spanish, specifically for a Latin American audience. As a means to draw attention to the project, I used two popular television super heroes that I watched as a child in Nicaragua and Mexico. El Chapulin Colorado is a comic super hero from the longest running Mexican television variety show titled Chespirito. As a child I dressed like el Chapulin Colorado and owned his weapon, a plastic hammer with a whistle - el Chipote Chillon. The second character is the Japanese intergalactic alien super hero Ultraman. Both television shows began in the mid to late 60s and present an idealized reality in which evil is overcome by good will. In the animation that I created, the two characters have grown old and are disallussioned by what they see in the world, that which man has wrought upon earth.

Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga, 2007

Here are a few links that describe the old folk tale, Carreta Nagua:
from Nicaraguan newspaper El Nuevo Diario

A group from Univeristy at Pittsburgh's Department of Education assembled an excellent document describing the Carreta Nagua. The document is a PDF that I've downloaded for safe keeping, but can also be downloaded from their server along with other related material.