Picture yourself laying in the sun, enjoying the last few warm weeks of summer, your favorite refreshing drink in one hand, a good book and/or cuddly animal by your side. The only thing missing in this imaginary relaxing afternoon is a hammock. Whether you prefer sturdy, weather-proof material to hide from the world in, your grandma’s loose macramé, or even a bright, swinging chair hanging from your dorm room ceiling, once you dive into the hammocking arena, there is never any desire to go back to a world of stiff wooden chairs or itchy picnic blankets.
I dove into this world head first during my study abroad experience in Costa Rica last spring. Never having been around many hammocks, I found myself excitedly taking every opportunity I could to rest in one, nap in one and always almost fall on my face getting out of one. I may not be a very graceful hammock user, but I am now a very enthusiastic one. Although still a novice, I am writing this article today so that I might be able spread the joy that I found in these wonderful lounging creations.
I know that hammocks are already very popular on Lawrence’s campus. I see them strung like colorful cocoons all over the place. I am here to present to hammock newbies and veterans alike a way to get high quality, super cool, comfy hammocks as well as help out an important organization. This group, based out of Grenada, Nicaragua, is called Tio Antonio Centro Social. The group was created in 2007 after its founder, Antonio Prieto Buñuel, moved to Nicaragua from Spain. Antonio, previously a special education teacher, noticed that there was little to no support or opportunities for employment for persons with disabilities in Nicaragua. Antonio created this organization to alleviate this problem. The Centro Social now has many projects, such as the Café Sonrisas, where the wait staff and cooks are all deaf and menus are translated into sign language, as well as a campaign to collect and recycle all of the plastic waste in Nicaragua. The largest Centro Social project is the production of hammocks.
I met Tio Antonio when my group in Costa Rica took a trip to Grenada. We toured the social center, the base for all Centro Social projects where the hammocks are produced. His organization aims to provide people with disabilities opportunities to provide for their families as well as spread awareness about the lack of support and employment options for these communities in Nicaragua. After playing with the store’s bunnies and cats and attempting – and failing – to weave a hammock myself, I got to watch as the men and women who work there wove with such speed and dexterity that my eyes could barely keep up. Some of these employees even made a hammock for Pope Francis, which he loves, apparently!
It is clear that I am very biased, but I still contend that Tio Antonio Centro Social’s hammocks are the most beautiful and comfortable hammocks I have ever experienced. Centro Social ships the reasonably-priced hammocks all over the world. Next time you’re shopping for yourself or a friend, check out www.tioantonio.org. They even make cat and dog sized hammocks so you don’t have to share your own!