Aaron Salinger, doctoral student in Spanish & Portuguese, and Lloyd Merino, an undergraduate, spent a month this summer on the bicycle project in Granada, Nicaragua.

Before heading south, they spent a week raising money. With some help from the Department of Spanish & Portuguese, they came up with about $450.

"We spent just over $100 here in Albuquerque, buying tools and patch kits," Salinger said.

He said that in Granada, Spanish classes were held at Casa Xalteva, a school that uses proceeds from teaching Spanish to fund educational programs for local children. His Spanish class met three hours each day.

"During the first week we dedicated the last hour of class each day to learning about bicycle repair in Spanish and subsequently repairing Casa Xalteva's half dozen bicycles, which were in various forms of disrepair," he said.

He and the students not only engaged in bicycle repair, but were even able to use their Spanish to explain what they were doing.

He added, "We often kept working after class had officially ended."

At Casa Xalteva, they worked closely with an employee of the school. "Andres ‘El Guapo,' not only commutes by bicycle to work each day, but is also a capable mechanic."

They wanted to train him to work with the tools that they brought to make sure the bicycles stay in good repair. "The bicycles will be used to rent to Spanish students and, in this manner, they will generate revenue for the school," Salinger said.

He added that "El Guapo" is the guide for the school so it's likely that in the future Casa Xalteva will offer guided bicycle trips of Granada and the surrounding area. At the end of the month-long stay in Granada, they took the cash not spent on bicycle repair to buy two adult and one small bicycle.

"The small bicycle, and another that Casa Xalteva, already had, will be donated to a boy and a girl at the house," Salinger said. The bikes will be given to the two students earning the highest grades on their final report card this year, he said.

Salinger felt good about what they were able to accomplish. "In all, we left Casa Xalteva with more than a dozen working bicycles," he said.

Before going to Granada, Salinger didn't know that everyone there rides a bicycle. "It is a normal mode of transportation and an obvious part of local culture. Many people fix their bicycles with matching colored parts. It is also normal to see two or three people riding down the dusty streets of Granada on the same bike," he said.

No doubt the bicycles they left at Casa Xalteva will be well used.

Media contact: Carolyn Gonzales, 277-5920; e-mail: cgonzal@unm.edu