It is my last day in Estelí. It is also the day of nationwide liberation of Nicaragua. Most of my family is in Managua celebrating the holiday’s 29th anniversary, but I stayed behind to pack and say good-bye to the city that, if I weren’t already a ride-or-die New Yorker, would have stolen my heart completely.
Estelí had its liberation day last Wednesday, July 16th. After Matagalpa, Estelí was the first city to overcome the National Guard in 1979 and be liberated by the Sandinista Army. The Dictator Somoza held on to the capital, Managua, until the 19th, when he fled to Miami, where he was granted asylum by the United States government, which had funded the terrorism of Somoza’s National Guard.
Apparently, the Somoza government’s plan was to stay in power until 1980, when the U.S. would have a presidential election and, they suspected, a new U.S. government would grant even more military and other aid to the Somoza dictatorship. They were right. Reagan won, but it was too late for Somoza and his cronies. The Sandinistas triumphed that July.
It was a short-lived triumph. Reagan cut off all aid to the newly liberated, people-led Nicaragua, and funded the Contra army to devastate any democracy or social services the Sandinistas had established in Nicaragua after 1979. For more post-1979 history, see blog entries from June, “A Brief History of Nicaragua” and especially “An Amended and Extended Nicaraguan History.”
I went to get my sandals and workbag repaired today. The repairman I met is deaf, but through my slow, bad, desperate efforts to sign (alphabet and makeshift gestures only) I managed to explain what I needed. He asked me where I was from, and I spelled out U-N-I-T-E-D S-T-A-T-E-S until I realized that those letters do not create words in Spanish. So then I spelled out A-M-E-R-I-C-A and he understood. It was only later that I realized I used the sign for “X” instead of “R” so I effectively spelled out A-M-E-X-I-C-A. I was worried he thought I was Mexican until he charged me an unmistakably gringa price. He signed, “hungry,” so I didn’t negotiate. Well, at least I have a pair of shoes with soles.
Tomorrow I’m going to Masaya to work with the consumer-rights organization ACODEMA for my last two weeks in Nicaragua. Their work, and why it’s so important, is described in June’s blog entries: “Consumer Rights and their Violation,” and “Microfinance: Why It (Sometimes) Just Doesn’t Work.”
I called Roger Lecayo, the director of ACODEMA, to tell him I would be in Masaya to start work on Monday. He said to just go to the ACODEMA office from the bus stop. I don’t know where it is, of course.
“Well, just ask someone,” he said. “It’s not far from the bus station.”
“OK, no problem, Señor Lecayo. Thanks so much and see you Monday!”
“Wait!” he exclaimed. “Make sure you don’t ask a police officer.”
“OK.” In two months in Nicaragua, I can count the number of police officers I’ve seen on one hand. Using two fingers.
“But don’t ask anyone who might work for Union Fenosa either, or anyone who… actually, just call me when your bus arrives, and I’ll come and get you.”
Of course. This is, after all, the man who said he has to look over his shoulder and go home by a different route every day due to the nature of his work.
Corporations are even scarier in Nicaragua than they are in the U.S. Unless you’ve seen “The Insider.”