2 November 2012
Taking a look at the REAL reality.
The beach was nice. We got time to relax, have fun, and soak up the sun. BUT, it wasn’t what Nicaragua is all about…
…Like Guatemala and El Salvador, Nicaragua is a nation steeped in struggle and revolution. Before we even left El Salvador, our program facilitator, Joe, told us that Nicaragua is a place that you can physically see the effects that years of armed conflict and war have had on the nation. In El Salvador, San Salvador is built up, and plagued by Americanism. Nicaragua is a different story, though.
It is the second poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, just behind Haiti. Up until 2006, the nation did not have the infrastructure to support electricity 24 hours per day, so there was a 8 hour period each day where the government would turn off the electrical grid throughout the nation. Today though, the nation is still facing natural resource security issues, as well as political division throughout the nation. Daniel Ortega is currently in his third term as president, and his first consecutive term. While his administration calls itself socialist, many Nicaraguans see him as a dictator. The Sandinista party has become known for political corruption, electoral fraud, and Ortega even had the Nicaraguan constitution amended to allow him to run for a consecutive term. While the Sandinistas were fighting for liberation from the Somoza family’s reign of almost 40 years, Ortega is now on his way to doing the same. Last year’s presidential election is not able to be called an election without illegitimacy, and this Sunday’s municipal elections will most likely be characterized by the same. Though Ortega has implemented a number of programs to aid the poor—nationalized healthcare, free education, and a housing project—his administration has also been accused of electoral fraud, and much manipulation of the Nicaraguan people in order to accumulate power and wealth.
On Wednesday, we moved in with our host families, whom we’ll be living with for the next five weeks in the community of Batahola Norte. My friend, Justin, and I are living with Doña C., her husband, and three daughters. Her fourth daughter just recently had a baby (he’s not even a month old) and lives in Batahola Norte with her husband. The family is very connected to the cultural center in Batahola, having had daughter who have sang in the choir. Doña C. was also a guerrilla fighter during the revolution, and was taken as a prisoner as well. Her husband was drafted when the government instated a draft in 1984. Doña is now privately very critical of Ortega and his administration, but is forced to superficially support him in the interest of her husband’s and daughter’s government jobs. Her family is the same way. The power of the Ortega government is now very close to home for me, as our class takes a history class and a political science class, and learns of the political history of Nicaragua.
Our professors in Nicaragua are Kathy McBride and Suyen Barahona. Kathy is the daughter of a Latino and Irish Catholic, having grown up in the United States, but having lived in Latin America since the 1980’s, she is very knowledgeable of the history of Central America and Nicaragua. Suyen is a native of Managua and the political science teacher. She grew up in Managua, and well-versed on the political environment that has existed and currently exists in Nicaragua. Just this first week, we have learned about the corrupt and manipulated history and political history of Nicaragua. Such history that extends into the present, and forces the people of this nation to continue to struggle for justice.
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