Ometepe (Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga)

Nicaragua/USA, 2016
Sustained Turbulence

Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga

Ometepe is a desktop or browser videogame that examines the explosive controversy of the Nicaraguan Canal, a proposed route from the Caribbean Sea through Lake Nicaragua into the Pacific Ocean.

Conceived in 2012 as a fifty-year concession by the Nicaraguan government to a Hong Kong company headed by billionaire Wang Jing, the project will accommodate maritime shipping traffic that will exceed the capacity of the Panama Canal over the next few decades.

The canal will also involve the largest earthmoving project in the planet’s history, creating tens of thousands of jobs—half for Nicaraguans, half for Chinese and other foreign workers—whilst destroying ecological systems, forcing relocations of tens of thousands of Nicaraguan campesinos (peasant farmers), and disrupting the annual migration for hundreds of thousands of nonhuman animals.

Critics believe that the project is a scheme to maintain Daniel Ortega's presidency, now in its third term after abolishing term limits.

Presently, the project's future looks as uncertain as previous plans, including one by US billionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt in the 1850s. As Nicaragua's largest source for freshwater, Lake Nicaragua sits at the center of both the project and protests against it.

Ometepe takes its name from the island Ometepe (Nahuatl for "two mountains") formed by two volcanoes in the lake, which has been home to human civilization, dating to 2,000–500 BCE, and numerous unique species of flora and fauna. UNESCO declared it a biosphere reserve (an ecosystem of unusual natural significance) in 2010.

To play, users navigate through the island’s lush forest with an animated avatar of El Chapulín Colorado ("The Red Grasshopper") from the long-running Mexican television comedy, created by Roberto Gómez Bolaños (aka Chespirito) as parody of superhero series. When El Chapulín throws his trusty weapon Chipotle Chillón ("squeaky mallet") to hit Ortega wearing red sparring gear, Wang driving a spaceship-capped bulldozer, or other obstacles, they explode. When the player bypasses them, he frees the country—and is sometimes thanked by the lungless salamander (Bolitoglossa insularis), an indigenous creature.

This work was first curated in FLEFF 2016.

Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga approaches art as a social practice that seeks to establish dialogue in public spaces. Born to immigrant parents and growing up between Nicaragua and San Francisco (California) in the United States, he has had a strong awareness of inequality and discrimination since an early age. Themes such as immigration, discrimination, gentrification, and the effects of globalization extend from highly subjective experiences and observations into his arts practice, which tactically engages audiences through popular metaphors and critical perspectives.