Living History: Granada, Nicaragua

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At just 10 years old, Marcos Cajina set out to explore his native Nicaragua on his own. He wanted to see Lake Nicaragua, the world’s twentieth largest lake, and explore its many inlets. On his travels, he came across the brilliantly colored cement tiles that, since the 19th century, lined surfaces in spaces public and private all around the country. Fast forward to 2001. Marcos and his wife, Melanie Stephens, live in Los Angeles. Those concrete tiles he first saw all those years ago still stand out in his mind, so he builds his own hydraulic press in his basement and starts creating his own cement tiles. Experiments with processes and materials follow, and he and Melanie head to France for an intensive research trip. By 2004 they establish production facilities in Nicaragua, and Granada Tile (named after the city on the shores of Lake Nicaragua where Marcos learned about cement tile) begins rolling the Echo Collection off the presses.

 The floor at the Granada Cultural Center that started it all! Image, Granada Tile.

With production facilities still located in Nicaragua, Marcos and Melanie return often to the country and get a chance to take in the amazing tiles that cover so many surfaces around the city. There’s the 19th-century floor at the Granada Cultural Center—the floor that planted the image of cement tile in Marcos’s mind as a child—with simple, elegant pattern of strap work and stars. The palette is limited, yet it pops against the creamy hues of the stone and masonry around it.

 Cement tiles abound outdoors in Granada, Nicaragua. Image, Granada Tile.

Outside, too, boasts plenty of cement tile. Paving a walkway of an exterior arcade in the city’s Central Plaza, a vibrant mix of tiles of predominantly pink and deep red provide a zesty contrast with the bold yellow of the building next to it.

 A geometric pattern in a Granada sitting room creates an Escher-like effect. Image, Granada Tile.

Surprising cement tile finds pop up around the city. In a sitting room, monochromatic concrete tiles laid in a complex pattern create a striking, dizzying three-dimensional effect. The look departs from the more traditional designs and palettes found elsewhere in the city, but the impact is just as strong. It’s little wonder Marcos fell in love with cement tiles—in Granada, their lure is irresistible. 

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