History of PML

Our Beginnings

Project Minnesota/León's roots lie in another another cultural awareness effort, the Center for Global Education at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In the early 1980s, Mary Foster and Bryce Hamilton traveled with the center to several Central American countries, including Nicaragua. At that time the country was struggling with a deep civil war. During the visit they discussed ways to enable Minnesotans and Nicaraguans to get to know one another.

An opportunity to build on that conversation soon arose. After returning to Minnesota, Bryce heard Father José María Delgado, a Dominican priest at La Merced Church in León, give a presentation at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in South Minneapolis. Bryce and Father José talked about the simple people-to-people concept. Father José invited Bryce to stay at his parish in Nicaragua for a week to explore such a connection.

When Bryce later returned to León, Father José introduced him to education, government, and business leaders in the city, so Bryce could assess their interest in the idea. Bryce received enthusiastic support from all he met and returned home firmly committed to moving forward with plans to build relationships between the people of León and Minnesota.

Meanwhile Mary Foster had met Nancy Trechsel on a Witness for Peace trip to Nicaragua and invited her to join in the new adventure. Bryce, Mary, and Nancy met regularly and soon included Maynard Jones and Elizabeth Sander in planning sessions. They began contacting global concerns committees at area churches to ask for financial support. Elizabeth, a graduate from Augsburg College in international relations and Spanish, volunteered to be the first coordinator in León in 1984. This was the birth of Project Minnesota/León.

A primary activity was sending three or four groups to León each year to visit self-help projects and meet local officials. For more than 30 years, groups of Minnesotans have enjoyed the hospitality of host families in León neigbhorhoods.

More than 15 coordinators (click here for a list) have served in León since the inception of the project. Between 1984 and 1990, 16 Minnesota groups visited Nicaragua, and three Nicaraguan youth groups visited Minnesota. Since 1990, an average of two to four groups have traveled each year between Minnesota and León. Each group has sought to foster cultural exchange and build stronger communities.