November 28, 2011 - Nicaragua
Over nine years Justo Cano, better known as Don Justo or El Maestro, has taught many pequeños the fine art of playing the marimba. Don Justo is from Masaya, dubbed the crib of folklore, and was practically born a marimbista. When still a small boy Don Justo used to accompany his father, who was a marimbista as well, when he would go and perform—Don Justo played the guitar during those performances. Back home, while his father was working on the land, Don Justo practiced marimba, teaching himself to play and now is a well known marimbista in his home town, having won several prizes.It was while playing marimba in his hometown Masaya, that Don Justo was approached by someone from NPH and accepted the invitation to come to Casa Santiago on the island of Ometepe to teach the pequeños—this was his first formal job. For Don Justo the job entails more than simply being a teacher, he tries to give his students care and also a bit of therapy along with life lessons.
Though Don Justo is a musical genius, he is illiterate. Of his eight siblings, only the oldest one went to school. Don Justo used to work the land, picking cotton and vegetables, and later on, the marimba provided his daily tortilla. In NPH many pequeños have tried to teach him how to read and write, but their attempts have been in vain.
Being illiterate, Don Justo, as no one else, knows the importance of education. His children did study and finished secondary school. His face lights up when he talks about his children being musicians, they have even formed a conjunto together and regularly go and perform. Besides his three children, Don Justo has also taken in five nieces and nephews, and adopted a child. Just as he has opened the doors of his house for these children, he has opened his heart for the pequeños.
Don Justo always tells his pupils to study, to prepare themselves. From his own experience, he tells them the difficulties not being able to read and write brings. To Don Justo the pequeños are much more than his pupils, they are his children.