Nicaragua -> Oregon

I'm back! So much to write, and to catch up on, but for now I'll just say that I had an incredible time in Nicaragua - I really couldn't have asked for a better month. I got back home around 1am on Saturday morning, so I very much still have one foot in Nicaragua and one foot here. Thanks so much to all of you who sent supportive messages while I was gone!

I'm very much in the midst of catching up on emails, work etc, but I'll get back to blogging ASAP. For now, here are a few of the books that had a huge impact on me while I was in Nicaragua:

- Nicaragua: Living In The Shadow Of The Eagle does the seemingly impossible by presenting centuries of Nicaraguan history in a very compact, readable, and politically aware format. An excellent introduction to Nicaragua, and the history of American involvement in Central America.

- The Jaguars Smile: Salman Rushdie spent 3 weeks in Nicaragua in the 80's and this is his account. It's not without flaws - he admits his own ignorance and biases, and even with an updated forward the book reads like a relic. But Rushdie quotes from a variety of excellent poems, had some good access to "important" people, and had a real appreciation for the artists of Nicaraguan. It's a quick read, and be sure to read the updated intro as well (which is now almost 10 years old and pretty out of date, but offers a glimpse of 90's Nicaragua).

- Nicaragua: Surviving The Legacy Of US Policy is an incredibly powerful collection of images and first person testimony about the devastating effects of the US-backed Contra. The authors photographed and interviewed Nicaraguans (including community members in Lagartillo, the village where I lived) in the 80's and again 20 years later - the result is both hard to put down and difficult to read.

- Finally, I most recently finished The Death Of Ben Linder: The Story Of A North American In Sandinista Nicaragua, one of the best books I've read in a while. Through an incredible amount of research and interviews, the author recreates the final years and days of the life of a young American who lived and worked in Nicaragua in the 80's, helping build and operate a hydroelectric plan in rural Nicaragua, before he was murdered by the Contras. The book is a vivid portrait of Nicaragua in the 80's as well as a powerful and affecting story of an American trying to live responsibly in the world, a young man struggling with his own idealism and desire for personal fulfillment and social change.

Oh, and two more: The Country Under My Skin is the autobiography of Giocondi Bella, a wonderful Nicaraguan poet. Hers is a very specific view of the revolution as experienced by a privileged woman living in Managua, choosing to fight with the Sandinistas. Eventually I got tired of hearing about her endless love affairs, but the book is worth a read for its first person account of the internal politics of the FSLN in the 80's. Finally, if you're able to find it, the Cooperativa Maria Zunilda Perez in London has published La Vida De Tina/Tina's Life Story, a powerful first person narrative of the life of Tina, a woman who lives in El Lagartillo and lost her husband and daughter in the contra attack.

In addition to these books, the snippets of poetry I've read have been an important part of my time in Nicaragua. The piece that has stayed with me the most is the following, a selection from "Epitaph For The Tomb of Aldofo Baez Bone," written by (Padre) Ernesto Cardenel:

they killed you and didn't say where they buried
your body, but since then the entire country has been
your tomb, and in every inch of Nicaragua where your body
isn't buried
you were reborn.

they thought they'd killed you with their order of
they thought they'd buried you
and all they had done was to bury a seed.


bfr said...

Glad to have you back!

TC said...

Can't wait to read more about your trip!

Amy said...

So happy you're back!

Amanda @ Hungry Vegan Traveler said...

I'm about a month late in realizing you are back, but I was so excited to find new posts on your blog! Welcome back! Do you have more Nicaragua pics to share?