THERE is no better way to make Nicaraguans feel at home than by singing the Misa Campesina – the Nicaraguan Peasant Mass.

The Central American song was performed by the choir at Blackfriars Church in St Giles on Sunday as part of a weekend of celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of the twinning link between Oxford and Leon.

Events also included a performance by professional opera singer Quentin Hayes, at Oxford Town Hall on Friday, a discussion on the future of tourism in Nicaragua at Cheney School in Headington on Saturday, and a social evening.

City council leader Bob Price said: “I am delighted that we are celebrating 25 years of the Oxford-Leon link. During the 1980s, there was a popular movement to twin cities in the UK with counterparts in the developing world, especially with Nicaragua.

“We have supported and fundraised for the Oxford-Leon Association for the past 25 years and have seen our links strengthened during those years.”

Jan Marshall, a volunteer with the Oxford-Leon Association, who sang in the choir on Sunday, added: “The events have been a fantastic celebration of the past 25 years and will help to strengthen links for the future.

“The Mayor of Leon, Manuel Calderon Suarez, has visited Oxford, and we also welcomed Guisell Morales, from the Nicaraguan Embassy in London.

“There are only a few volunteers but it went very well.”

Annette Honeywell, a former chairman of the association, added: “There has been an amazing turnout and I’m sure there will be a delegation from Oxford travelling to Leon later in the year.”

Ms Morales, the Nicaraguan Chargé d’Affaires, said: “The Oxford-Leon link has worked very well over the past 25 years and people in Oxford have worked hard to raise money for poor people in Nicaragua.

“They have helped to fund educational and agricultural projects and we joined in the events as a way of saying thank-you.

“I hope the link continues. It is not just about finances; great friendships have grown between people from our two countries.”

  • Since 1986, fundraising in Oxford has helped to pay for many development and education projects in Nicaragua.

Last year, 35 people took part in a sponsored swim at Hinksey outdoor pool in aid of development projects in Leon.

The event raised about £2,000 towards the cost of constructing a well and water storage facility for rural communities living in the foothills of the Telica volcano, near the city.

The project improved the main spring source in Agua Fría which is used by 76 families.

For many, the spring is the only source of water in the dry season.

The Misa Campesina played an important part in the liberation struggle in Nicaragua. The Sandinista Front for National Liberation commissioned the work, and the mass, composed by Carlos Mejia Godoy, has proved popular ever since.