You may wonder how a group of old ladies, most of whom have never worked outside of the house, can go on strike. The Association of Mothers of Heroes and Martyrs is a group of mothers who lost their children in the Sandinista Revolution and Contra War. While some did join the forces during the decade of conflict, and still many more collaborated or risked their lives to bring their children food in the mountains, many have since settled into their houses. Mainly housewives or widows, they tend to support their families through cooking, cleaning, and selling the occasional Nacatamal (traditional tamale of cornmeal, tomatoes, raisins, rice, and meat) or Rosquillo (hard corn cookies) from their doorway. Thus as a group, you might wonder from what job they are going to strike. It was something I wondered myself when Doña Mina, the coordinator of the organization, threatened to do so yesterday.
At 1:00 today, Enoe, the secretary, sent a message to a couple of radio stations. “La Directiva invites the Mothers of Heroes and Martyrs to an urgent meeting in the Gallery,” the memo read. At 1:40, The hallway of the gallery, normally empty, is full with over 40 mothers seated in old wicker and plastic chairs. More filter in as Doña Mina gives her speech. “We are going on strike,” she explains, “until they listen to us. We have not been getting our aid packets and we want them to hear our struggle.” The mothers nod and clap. The monthly aid packets (a bag of beans, rice, corn, oil, and soymilk) have been corruptly distributed: some mothers haven’t been getting their monthly pensions. The local Sandinista party is in charge of handing them out in a nearby gymnasium, but some of the mothers haven’t received them for months or longer. So the mothers want control of the distribution; they want the paquetes and the pensions to come through the Galería of Heroes and Martyrs so that they can monitor them and hand them out themselves. They organized the mothers in the first place and petitioned the packets and they want to make sure the right people are getting them. Ohh, and the roofs that the president promised would come in April, and them May, and then June, and then July- they still haven’t shown up. So the mothers have gathered in the gallery, a block away from the central park. And they’re not going to leave anytime soon.
By 2:00, there are more than 60 mothers murmuring under the tin roof of the gallery, with a steady stream continuing to trickle in. Doña Mina continues informing them of the situation; “and we’re going to show up here every day until they listen to us,” she explains. The mothers nod. Though the music of the afternoon rain drowns out conversations and the thunderstorm has cut off the energy supply, the mothers sit in the dark, shouting and laughing. Some begin to sing and dance. Doña Mina has arranged a meeting at 3:00 with a representative from the mayor’s office, and the mothers are ready to show them that they mean business. If Don Victor, the representative, says “no” the mothers are ready to show up tomorrow and the next day. With posters and slogans, they will stand outside of the Gallery and shout to be heard. The mothers are on strike.