Thursday's Child: Stories of the Nicaraguan Revolution and Contra War

Thursday, December 4, 2014
City square in Granada
I've said it before, but it bears repeating: one of the privileges of travelling is meeting the people who live in the places we visit. and hearing about their lives. It helps me understand a country in a way I never could if I was staying in an all-inclusive, or an anonymous chain hotel that I rarely left.

One of the highlights of our trip to Nicaragua was hearing our guide, Julio, talk about the Revolution and Contra War. He was in kindergarten when it began. His teacher signed up to fight with the Sandinistas. The following year Julio remembered attending his funeral.

One of his uncles fought with the Sandinistas. Sometimes the soldiers ran short on rations and relied on help from civilians for survival. On one occasion, Julio and his father drove to the highlands in the north of the country to deliver supplies.
Nicaragua's beautiful Apoyo Lagoon
During the war, trade with the US was banned, so Nicaraguan imports came only from Russia and Cuba. This meant there was a dearth of products, and grocery store shelves were often empty. Julio remembered there being only one brand of toothpaste, in a stark white tube with no brand name or expiration date displayed.

Scenes from a boat trip along Granada's beautiful archipelago
Because he was a young child, he didn't particularly notice the lack of products or change in political climate. That was just life for him. He did mention that there weren't a lot of toys available for sale. He remembered making a baseball from a rock (which he wrapped in strips of cloth and inserted in a sock) and playing ball with his friends all day. All this practice served him well, since Julio later played at the semi-pro level. Perhaps he was inspired by his countryman, Dennis Martinez, the first Nicaraguan who played in Major League Baseball.

Nicaraguan businessman, taking chickens to town by horse and wagon
Nicaraguan poet Ruben Dario lived many years before the Revolution and Contra War, but his words might also describe what it was like to live in Nicaragua during those years:

"You that have heard the heartbeat of the night,
you that have heard, in the long, sleepless hours,
a closing door, the rumble of distant wheels,
a vague echo, a wandering sound from somewhere:

you, in the moments of mysterious silence,
when the forgotten ones issue from their prison --
in the hour of the dead, In the hour of repose --
will know how to read the bitterness in my verses.
I fill them, as one would fill a glass, with all
my grief for remote memories and black misfortunes,
the nostalgia of my flower-intoxicated soul
and the pain of a heart grown sorrowful with fetes;

with the burden of not being what I might have been,
the loss of the kingdom that was awaiting me,
the thought of the instant when I might not have been born
and the dream my life has been ever since I was!

All this has come in the midst of that boundless silence
in which the night develops earthly illusions,
and I feel as if an echo of the world's heart
had penetrated and disturbed my own."

- "Nocturne", by Ruben Dario

The girls with our amazing guide, Julio


19 comments:

kirstenlopresti said...

What an amazing tour you had! Beautiful poem, too.

amy (fearless homemaker) said...

Wow, Julio sounds like such a wealth of information! And I agree - while I love the scenery and cuisine of the places I visit, the *people* are what really helps me connect with it. It sounds like you've met some amazing folks in your travels!

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

I've been having trouble leaving a comment on your posts but I've been enjoying your travels and your delicious looking frittata.

Valerie Gamine said...

What a powerful poem. Admittedly I don't know much about Central America; I enjoyed reading your informative post!

Pam said...

Very interesting and a poem with a message.

Grettel (Usha) said...

Love travelers who have such appreciation for the history of the country they visit and its people’s personal stories. Living in Costa Rica has always been a blessing, in my early years I was ignorant of the magnitude of the political situation with our neighbor country, I’ve talked with brothers and sisters from Nicaragua and they have share unimaginable stories of survival, even though quite dark, they always shared them with a tad of humor. May God bless their country and give us all the wisdom to prolong peace.

Beth said...

Thank you for your kind words, Grettel. It was a true blessing visiting that beautiful country. The Nicaraguans really have been through much, but they were wonderful hosts when we visited.

Marcela said...

I love your appreciation for history ! I love that you want to share your knowledge with us!
Thank you so much! I love the poem ... it has a message.

Gloria Baker said...

These are really lovely pictures Beth and a nice poem:)

Julia said...

What an interesting story! I agree with you - traveling abroad is all about immersing yourself into that culture, including making connections with local people. You can learn so much about a country from the locals!

Choc Chip Uru @ Go Bake Yourself said...

Seems like you had a fantastic time - learning so much about the culture is important when visiting abroad :)

Cheers
Choc Chip Uru

Barbara said...

You always get to know the people in the countries you visit, Beth. It's a wonderful education for your girls, you and all of us, who read your travel posts. Thanks for taking us places we may never visit!

Angie Schneider said...

A very beautiful country! And lucky you having a passionate, professional tour guide. Thanks for sharing, Beth.

Pam said...

Getting to know the locals when traveling gives you such a better idea of what the country is really like. It sounds like you learned a lot from Julio. Great photos!

Liz Berg said...

You really make the best of your time traveling...such a terrific education for you all!

lisa is cooking said...

What a great way to learn more about a place. Your travel posts always make me want to jump on a plane!

Andrea_TheKitchenLioness said...

Beth, absolutely wonderful travel post - whenever I read through them, I always learn so much and I am always quite taken by all your wonderful photography!
Have a lovely weekend,
Andrea

Joanne said...

Part of the joys of traveling is definitely hearing the stories of the people you meet along the way!

Mary @ The World Is A Book said...

This was such an interesting story about Julio. It really is always great to hear the culture and history from the locals' perspective. What a wonderful way to learn about a country especially for your girls.

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