SST AT SEVENTY Part 4
Two minibuses loaded with 27 people; students, leaders, country coordinator and one senior citizen and one child, pull away from the curb in front of “Casa Verde”, the Goshen College house in Jinotepe. We are headed north to Sébaco and Estelí for a two day excursion to learn more about Nicaragua. We drive into foothills and through mountains until we enter the valley where Sébaco is located.
We visit the offices of ACORDAR, an organization that works with co-operatives municipalities and NGOs to improve the plight of farmers. Their purpose is to help the farmers produce crops that are marketable and bring fair prices. In the past most farmers grew mainly beans which meant there would be an oversupply, the prices would be very low and many beans were not sold. ACORDAR researches the market locally and world-wide to advise the farmers on what to grow and when. The main crops are coffee, cacao, beans, tubers, fruits and vegetables. I had not realized that the climate in Nicaragua was conducive to such a wide variety of plants.
Afterwards we drive to a papaya farm, which is part of a farming cooperative. We are shown how they grow the trees and the crops they use in rotation. Papaya trees take a several years to produce fruit and then they are done and new ones must be started. In between the farmers grow tomatoes, onions and cucumbers. They are also experimenting with different kinds of squash. The guide tells us that these papayas are being grown for export to Wal-Mart stores.
The next day in Estelí we go to visit La Galeria de los Heroes y Martires (the Museum of Heroes and Martyrs). This small museum is maintained by the mothers of young men and women who died in the Sandinista Revolution and the later Counter-Revolution, which was backed by the United States. There we meet some of these mothers who share stories of losing their children in the war to free their nation from the sadistic dictator, Somoza. Then they suffered again in the counter-revolution, attempting to keep their freedom in the face of opposition from the world’s greatest super-power. Some of these women themselves fought in one or both of the conflicts. We are told that one of the ladies present was forced to watch her son burned alive because he had been a ‘guerillero’ in the revolution. I am moved to tears and filled with shame to remember again that my country, which proclaims its support of freedom and democracy, was actively involved in fighting against the freedom desired by the majority of the people of Nicaragua. I speak to several of the women and express my sorrow for the pain my country has brought to their country.
Teresa Moreno who arranged for us to make this visit tells some of her story also. She served as a spy for the guerillas in the revolution. Sometimes she carried messages, taking her children with her so it would appear she was just out on an errand. Anyone could be stopped at any time and questioned by Somoza’s National Guard and could be arrested on any pretense. She later served in the army and the militia during the contra war. Teresa now works with Zoila America Ortega in an organization that helps abused and exploited children and victims of domestic abuse. She reminds us that all mothers who lost children in both conflicts deserve our respect and help. War does not solve anything. After the conflict is over there are still disagreements and animosity. We need to learn reconciliation and cooperation. Afterwards we enter the museum and see rows and rows of pictures of young men and women who died in the two revolutions. One mother stands beside the picture of her son so we can see who he was. As a mother such sorrow on the part of another mother is hard to experience.
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