Writing about Nicaragua got hard when I came back.
First my son broke his leg while I was away, just like Kobe Bryant. He slipped on a toy. I came back, the holidays were over and we could not take him to kindergarten with his leg on a plaster cast. We made turns to stay with him at home. It was a bit of a chaos, because I counted on coming back and working more than usual, and I got just the opposite. On Monday finally they took the cast off. But he’s still limp, poor thing, he still cannot walk, even if he’s a little better.
I didn’t think I’d have to teach him to walk again, but here we are, step by step. And step by step I’m telling you about Nicaragua, where we left it.
Where was I?
- I was saying in Murcia before I went there: I’m Nica, from Nicaragua, and this month I’m going back, are you coming?
- While I was there I wrote to a friend, and published it in English: Soy nica / I’m nica.
- When we went back to San José de Costa Rica, my sister wrote in her blog: Espe por el mundo: Nicaragua. <- If you want a short story (in Spanish) with good pictures, read my sister’s post.
- From Costa Rica, the morning I was going back home, I wrote Nicaragua, con tus propios ojos (I) (in Spanish), the post in which we made it to the border.
This is me, June 1981, in Nicaragua.
I’m going back to the place I left when I couldn’t walk yet … we’re close to Managua, we’re getting there.
A vision of Managua: Roberto Sáenz
We got to our hotel after crossing a Managua that’s very different to my parents’ memories: it reminds me of the suburbs of Monterrey (Mexico). Only you never get to arrive to the centre of the town: there’s none. There are malls and some crystal and concrete buildings.
This is the building of the Pellas insurance company, read like pelas, which sounds like dough in Spanish, very appropriately.
After fighting with some very aggressive taxi drivers, we get to our hotel after paying a reasonable amount of money for a very filthy taxi ride. At least the windowpane wasn’t broken nor was the driver drunk, like the one that took my mom to hospital on that May 2nd 1981, 32 years ago.
The hotel is fine, it has air conditioning and wifi. On a whim, I whip off Foursquare and on checking-in I find out I’m 5300 miles away from home, about a fifth of the earth’s circumference. Hey, not that far.
That afternoon we meet with Roberto Sáenz, the former vice-minister of Adult Education, the technical director of the National Literacy Crusade, during my parents’ time there.
He takes us to see the monuments in the city centre, which I had only seen covered in demonstrators.
We go to the Salvador Allende boardwalk, a nice promenade built to stroll by the lake (you have to pay to go in, and security is powerful and visible):
Here in Salvador Allende, I have my frist Toña ever and my first Nicaraguan mixed platter:
Traveller’s vocabulary: in Nicaragua «agarrar una Toña» (to grab a Toña) means getting drunk.
Nicaraguan food: gallo pinto, col, salchichas, muslos de pollo fritos, plátano frito, chips de plátano frito, queso a la plancha, alitas de pollo fritas, cortezas de cerdo fritas… To sum up: fried everything, mostly chicken and pork, with some concessions to deeply fried vegetables.
Sáenz tells us about the joys and frustrations of the revolution:
Starting a revolution is easy, because you have to destroy. People talk about the revolution like something beautiful, but it’s a disaster. It’s ugly. And the part of destroying is easy, but then the hard part comes. Build? What and how? Who had done this before? No one. How would we do it? No idea. But we were going to.
We wanted to send all this people into the rainforest in this literacy campaign, but you can’t send people to the mountains without boots, right? And here we had no industry, we hardly had the guillotines to cut toilet paper in the size we used it. So we took [can’t remember the name he said], we gave him fifty thousand dollars and we sent him to Holland: “bring back boots.”
The boots arrived and we put them in storage. When people were leaving, we gave them their boots. A bit later we found out we were giving out boots that were for the same foot, or different sizes. They were huge boots that fit no one. Imagine, for the Dutch army, boots for those very tall gentlemen. And everything was like that…
He spoke like that all the time, and didn’t spare anyone from any side.
I couldn’t believe it. I’d made it! There we were, and Roberto Sáenz was telling us VERY interesting things.
Everything is polarised in Nicaragua, but at the same time everyone is family in a way or another. (You can read about this same thing in this book by his cousin Adolfo Miranda Sáenz). His eyes did light up talking about his native home in Granada, in the Calzada street, which today is the gorgeous Hotel Darío.
We could not understand what fascinated him so much about that house, until we saw it.
(To be continued…)