Monday, March 12, 2007

La fuerza de las mujeres

Working at the Casa de Niños has been a much needed breath of fresh air. I am surrounded by strong, fun and resourceful women. The organization was founded by 26 women in San Ramon following the war of the 1980s. These women saw a great need in their community and organized...since the 1980s the organization has grown to provide a variety of services. True to it’s original mission, the organization works to help children realize their value and potential. One of the children from their first painting classes, now grown, has won the national painting competition three years in a row and started a painting school in Matagalpa. The Casa de Niños even has a program for the ¨Viejitos¨(old people, in an affectionate way) every 15 days. These are the oldest of the old in community and they get together to sing, dance and do crafts. Every time I see the group I can’t help but smile and chuckle. They even elect a king and queen for the group every year. Next time they meet I am going to try to take a few photos. For now, here are a few other pictures. Above, I am standing in front of the pharmacy which was painted by some of their students.

Doña Margarita is one of the founding members of the organization and runs the pharmacy.She is incredible. Anyone that meets her can sense her strength right away. She has raised 9 children, received only a 2nd grade education, she became politically active leading citizen groups during the revolution and was just elected to be the president of the Casa de Niños. Doña Margarita readily affirms that the organization is run by women...the men working there are only helping out. In a place where women’s and men’s roles are clearly defined (women have babies and take care of them and the house) she is constantly pushing social boundaries.

The other day, Brad stopped by the pharmacy for a visit. We began discussing with Doña Margarita the importance of her new role as president. A young man walks into the pharmacy. Without pausing, Doña Margarita continues explaining that men often think that women are just there to cook, clean and have their babies. She implicates this young man in the conversation by making eye contact. This attitude, she continues, is inexcusable and she has always encouraged young women to have independent identities. In a place where Machismo is often the white elephant in the room, Doña Margarita has no fear directly addressing it. The guy looked uninterested, but at least we know he heard her!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Wilson´s Do San Ramon

Mom and Dad Wilson (Becky and Frank) recently visited us here in Nica, completing what has been a whirlwind tourism season for Tus Hijos (formerly Tus Hermanos) Tours. Sign up for your tour by contacting our hotline - prices are rising so call soon.

For about 10 years I have been coming back and forth to Nicaragua. Now after all these years my parents got a taste of what keeps me coming back. No, not the coffee. Cynthia and I had a great time introducing Mom and Dad to some of our favorite people and places. We started our trip walking the streets and boating through the isletas in Granada, then took the plunge in Laguna de Apoyo. After a humorous trip north listening to David Sedaris tell stories about his own family, we arrived in Selva Negra, just in time to take a tour around the coffee farm which first sparked my interest in rural development. After many years of hearing stories about Mausi Kuhl (my host in La Hammonia 8 years ago), my parents finally had a chance to meet face to face. The next morning we took off for San Ramon, linking up with our neighbor Sebastian and his younger brother Marvin to tour their coffee farm La Hermandad.
The introductory photo and the photo above were taken in La Hermandad (The Brotherhood) an 80 manzana farm 20 minutes outside of San Ramon. In the picture of the boys you´ll see from left to right Alvaro Izaguerre, Marvin Mairena, Bradley, Frank and Sebastian Mairena. It was really special that my parents visited the farm because our neighbors have become very close friends of ours and also they are one of only a few success stories I have come across in my research. La Hermandad is a cooperative farm business composed of 10 family members and 8 community members. Living through a time of great hardship (war, usury, little income) in the 1990s they were able to buy and develop their coffee farm into a beautiful business employing up to 15 permanent workers and 80 temporary harvesters. My Dad and Sebastian chatted business with me translating. Really fun.

My parents commented on the range and depth of the experience that they had in Nicaragua, from the time in Managua and Granada to the mountains of San Ramon. Everthing fell into place. And in such a short time. You´d be surprised to know that we had 4 full days to cover all the ground which we covered!