“It is difficult,” our Spanish teacher said, “Difficult to be here.”
We were in the Galeria de Heroes y Martires (The Gallery of Heroes & Martyrs): Maddie, Jane, Janique, Katrina, Maddie, Christina, Laurel, and I. The museum is a tribute to those valiant and selfless men and women who fell during the decades of the Nicaraguan revolution.
“It is difficult, because we remember their faces.”
She seemed as if she were about to cry, and I looked away. The walls were covered with photos of the faces of which she spoke, with a name, a date, and a place, as the caption… except for “los desaparecidos,” whose names and faces lacked any further caption. “Los desaparecidos” in Nicaragua refers to those revolutionaries who went to the mountains in the northern city of Esteli to join the revolution and never came back – not even their bodies. One can only guess- or try not to guess- what happened to them.
According to our Spanish teacher, many of these were kidnapped by the National Guard, and thrown from helicopters. Those men and women died alone, on an unknown day, in an unknown place… somewhere over Nicaragua, or Honduras perhaps. Their photographs, up on the wall of the Galeria, serves as their grave site, where their mothers go to grieve, and to remember.
Our homestay mother this first week, and a mother of a fallen revolutionary, Dona Guillermina Meza, opened the Galeria in the early 1980′s, for the community, and especially for the mothers who lost their children in the revolution. Many of these mothers granted their children’s firearms and clothing to the museum, and wrote out their stories (if they knew it) so Nicaraguans would never take their post-Somoza, post-Contra, post-Aleman political system for granted.
At a luncheon for the mothers of the martyrs a few days later (on Nicaraguan Mother’s Day), one woman hugged me tightly and whispered in my ear, “I’m so happy you’re here. I haven’t spent Mother’s Day with children in over 20 years.”
When she loosened her embrace, we introduced ourselves.