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Our History

Capacitar’s beginnings go back to the 1980s, the war years in Central America, when Sr. Mary Hartman, CSA, a member of the Nicaraguan Human Rights Commission, invited Pat Cane to work on a grassroots art festival. During the event as Pat practiced Tai Chi and acupressure for her own self-care, Mary said: “Your art is great, but when will you teach us how to do ‘that’!” Mary intuitively recognized the value of these ancient wellness practices to help people deal with the violence and trauma of their lives. With this insight Capacitar was born. From grassroots Nicaraguans came the word “capacitar”—a Spanish verb meaning to empower, to encourage, to bring to life— that became the name of an organization and the spirit of a movement. From CANTERA, a center in Nicaragua, came the method of popular education based on the work of Brazilian Paulo Freire. Through popular education people awaken to their own wisdom and possibilities, empowered to multiply what they learn in the community. Capacitar adapted Freire’s approach to awaken “body literacy,” integrating skills for body, mind and spirit to empower people to heal their own lives so they could reach out to transform their families and communities.

To read our full history, please click on the cover of the Anniversary Booklet icon below.