Meet the locals: Who is the real Chuka?

I’d heard rumors about the artist from San Juan de Oriente who comes to San Juan del Sur on weekends only to sell his art.  I’d followed his trail of Pre-Columbian spiritual inspiration mixed with a modern Day of the Dead flavor hanging on walls in trendy places like Gato Negro and King Curry. There are plenty of street vendors on the malecon trying to get an extra buck by selling imposter paintings. But who is the real Chuka? We tracked him down.

Chuka“I was born in San Juan de Oriente. I am a descendant of indigenous people in my pueblo. To understand me, you must understand the roots of my ancestors. 

My family is from the pueblo of what everyone knows today as San Juan de Oriente.  My pueblo hasn’t always been called San Juan de Oriente.  It’s original name was “Valle Namotiva” which translates to “sister city”. The original language of my pueblo was not Spanish.  It was an indigenous language called “Nahualth”.

We celebrated many gods. Gods of corn. Gods of the rain. Gods of the wind. Gods of the sun. Gods of fertility.

Chuka 2When the Spanish colonized the region, the name of my pueblo changed to “San Juan de los Platos” because the people of my pueblo were famous in the region for making indigenous ceramic tools such as plates, cups and vases.  The ceramics made and sold at this time were for practical purposes, not just art.  But to my people, it was always an art-form.

Eventually Managua became the capital city of Nicaragua and the name of our pueblo changed a third and final time to San Juan de Oriente because my pueblo is east of the capital of Managua. Most tourists now know it as the art town between Masaya and Caterina.

My family has always made art.  My grandmother was my first art teacher.  She is the one who taught me how to make traditional ceramic art that honors the origins of my family heritage.

Now I have many teachers and draw inspiration from many sources – my indigenous heritage, Nicaragua’s beautiful nature and the spiritual world.

I am currently going to school at UNI in Managua to study Industrial Energy.  I sell my art to pay for my education.

My dream is to have my own art gallery some day.

My real name is Francisco Perez Cano, but they call me Chuka.”

To order an original painting from Chuka, send him a what’sapp or call his Movistar cell phone directly here: +505 8127 7058.

Want to meet other San Juan del Sur locals?