Everyday we learn new Nicaraguan Spanish words, and try to unlearn (at least temporarily) a few of those apparently “gringo” words we picked up in Spanish classes in the U.S. The word for “kids” is a good example. I had always used “ninos,” but in the last couple of weeks I’ve picked up some synonyms: chevalos, cumiches, chiguines, cipotes, and most recently, chatel.
Chatel, literally translated as chattel, is a synonym for “kids” in Nicaragua. My Spanish language dictionary defines “chatel” as: an item of personal property that is not freehold and that is not intangible.
This fact is puzzling, not only because it is grim and even sickening, but because the advancement of young Nicaraguans and children’s rights were at the forefront of the values of the Nicaraguan revolution. During their temporary success, the true Sandinistas organized a literacy campaign. By busing privileged Nicaraguans out to the countryside, the Sandinistas were able to bring Nicaragua’s illiteracy rate from 45% in 1981 to 12% in just six months. But in 2008, roughly 50% of Nicaraguans are illiterate.