Yesterday during an orientation talk, Carmen, our host here at La Casa Quakera, explained to us a certain type of wisdom that she has found to exist in Nicaragua.
“People here have a special connection with nature. They know the importance of birds. They know the importance of talking to a cow when you are milking her. ”
Indeed, I’ve been learning things here that are just not as accessible in the parts of the United States that I’ve seen. Today was full of lessons on the country’s history as well as current events, and I found myself constantly impressed with the Nicaraguan spirit that these lessons revealed.
For instance, our first stop of the day was to meet a man named Mark (I never did catch his last name) who answered our remaining questions about Nicaragua. He was an American who had lived in Nicaragua since ’85, and an absolutely brilliant speaker. From him, we learned about the relationship between the United States and Nicaragua, as well as other parts of Nicaraguan history. One particularly striking part of his talk was concerning the United States’ method of national security as seen through Nicaraguan eyes. To paraphrase his words, the oppression of Nicaragua occurred because the United States could not stand to risk one tiny country like Nicaragua rebelling against its authority, as the rest of the countries controlled by the US might then decide to rebel as well. The United States, being the modern-day empire that it is, currently holds about 750 military stations around the world–basically, the US seems to be thinking that an intensive offense is the best defense, which may work in soccer or basketball, but makes for highly inhumane decision-making when implemented in foreign military affairs. The way in which the Nicaraguans resisted, though, and fought for the welfare of their poor majority population, was truly inspirational to hear.
After that, we drove over to the Tiscapa Lagoon and Managua’s Historical Center. The view of the Lagoon was gorgeous–hermoso was the appropriate word in Spanish, I was told–and in the midst of the natural scenery were the half-crumbled remains of Anastasio Samosa’s house. The ground we stood on was once walked by one of history’s most bloodstained dictators, and I felt on edge, almost as if there were ghosts looking out from within the ruins themselves. Nearby was erected a large black statue of the silhouette of Sandino; Sandino was killed somewhere in that area, though the exact location of his death is unknown.
After wandering that area for about 20 minutes, Carmen led us down a small stairwell (where a few of us ran into a cool-looking lizard) and into Managua’s Historical Center. The center was filled with huge black-and-white photographs of the faces of Sandino and his family, as well as soldiers of both La Guardia Nacional and of Sandino’s army. That very building in which Sandino’s life was being memorialized was once the office-space of Somosa’s armymen. The tour guide talked us through some of the events that occurred there, including some of the most horrific forms of torture imaginable. Sandino’s words shone brighter for me after learning of the heartlessness that he had been up against; the quotes of his on the walls spoke only of love and justice. We learned of Sandino’s so-called “crazy little army” which was called that because it was an army of 30, at first, which was meant to fight against a force of 5,000. Though poorly fed, clothed, and armed, they did eventually win in the end, as they became a legend that gave courage to future soldiers who would overthrow the Somosas and replace their government with one in the name of the Sandinistas.
Next, we went to a garbage dump called La Chureca. There was certainly trash around, though most of it had already been covered up by grass, and the dump location had been relocated elsewhere. The smell wasn’t pleasant, but people lived there, many of them depending on the garbage as a source of food. Within the dump was an area glowing with children’s laughter–a small food pantry where we got the chance to play with some of the liveliest children I’ve ever met. The little ones loved being picked up and spun around. I think that Gaby said it best as we headed out of La Chureca–”That was good for my soul.”
Finally, we visited the Association for the Promotion and Development of Nicaraguan Women ACAHUAL, where we learned about this particular women’s center in Managua and the incredible work they do for women in Managua. The women they work with come from a variety of backgrounds–some are lesbian or transgender, some are sex workers, and some come seeking psychological help because of domestic abuse. The center is able to not only provide drugs, tests, and condoms for these women, but also has an office for psychological assistance and legal help, and all of these things are given to the women for free if not for a very affordable price. According to the woman who spoke to us, the number of women helped by the center has grown from 30 to 85, and the number of STD tests that come back positive from these women has decreased significantly since the time when the center first began.
In general, this has been a wonderful and inspirational day. Now, I think it’s about time I got some sleep. Who knows what tomorrow will hold!