An Open Letter to the Chinese

Ometepe and the ChineseThree weeks ago, a Chinese delegation representing the proposed Nicaraguan Canal came to Ometepe Island. They measured land south of our new airport in La Paloma, including Punta Jesus Maria, a sacred and lovely point of land, which served as an indigenous trading port thousands of years ago, and now, is a must-see tourism locality.

Wang Jing has complete sovereignty and power to exercise dominion over all areas along the proposed canal route. He does not have to ask permission of any mayor, the expropriation of land is at his whim, and he will not have to pay taxes.

The course of the proposed Nicaraguan canal is becoming more confusing daily, as complete official secrecy surrounds Nicaragua like a black cloud. Speculation abounds, protests are held weekly, and rumors are rampant. We know nothing except for what we see. That being…delegations of Chinese accompanied by Nicaraguan military, silently measuring land along the proposed route.

My thoughts are that the land measured by the Chinese delegation would make beautiful resorts, competing with the best in the world. Resorts that could entice potential investors for the money needed to build the 40 or 50 billion dollar canal. If work is to start this December, what will be completed first…the canal or resorts?

It’s not the first time this carefully planned strategy has been used to entice potential investors. In the early 1900’s the first director of the National Park Service, Steven Mather, decided that Yosemite National Park needed a first class hotel. He was a master politician and recognized the need for a magnificent hotel in the fledgling park because he understood that the rich and powerful held the keys to obtaining funding.

His goals were lofty and brilliant. Mr. Mather wanted to protect the park from scrupulous businessmen ready to exploit the land, not protect and preserve the fragile environment. He also understood that getting the rich and powerful to visit Yosemite was the drawing card to obtaining the support, protection, and funding for the National Park system.

Today the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park is a major attraction to visitors as they explore the unique relationship of architecture and nature. Architecture in Yosemite National Park.

I intensely dislike the feeling of helplessness. If this is a done deal, which I suspect it is, we have very little control over what will happen in Nicaragua. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. I honestly don’t know what else to do.

                                            An Open Letter to the Chinese

Dear Honorable Mr. Wang Jing;

As time passes on the unique and sacred UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Ometepe Island, we are concerned about the exploitation of the Nicaraguan protected lands and indigenous people.  We must continue to have faith that you will make a concerted effort to protect and preserve their special island of peace.

Yet, because of lack of communication, we worry that the Nicaraguan home to thousands of unique animals, plants, and ancient artifacts will become a mystery of the past. Will their ancient artifacts be unearthed and crushed by rapidly and carelessly moving bulldozers? Already their graceful birds have taken flight because of the construction of the La Paloma airport. What is to become of their unique species of plants and animals?

The indigenous people have survived raids of Spanish conquistadors, many forced to move entire villages inland to protect their people. What will become of the people forced to move off their lands, which have been passed down through generations?

You can certainly understand their apprehension. We would like to request more visibility and openness concerning your intentions. We are pleading for your help and cooperation.

If your intentions are to build a mega-tourist resort in La Paloma to entice potential investors, please, take it in your heart to consider the implications for Ometepe Island. Great ideas simmer slowly and carefully. Look at other projects developed to entice the assistance of the rich and powerful, such as the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park.

The Nicaraguan people are creative, open, generous, and willing to help make your dreams of an Inter-oceanic Canal possible. Yet, it involves careful planning and cooperation with the indigenous people who have a right to know what is going to happen to their homeland.

Thank you for your cooperation in this very important matter. We will continue to have faith that you will make responsible decisions in the best interest of the Nicaraguan people and their fragile environment.


The Lorax


26 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Chinese

  1. Well, you people with noble ideas never cease to amaze me. Do you actually think that a country with a billion and a half people are going to listen to your pleas to preserve Paradise. Look at what they did to Tibet!!! That was a ancient country and civilization, did they care about swallowing up this sovereign country, not one bit. I visited Ometepe in early 1996. I took a tramp steamer (well it seemed like a tramp steamer) from Granada to the Island. Seeing those two beautiful Volcano’s at sunrise was breathtaking. The people were marvelous and friendly. I considered moving there permanently but the poverty on the mainland was just too much. On the morning of departure, early sunrise, while waiting on the boat, I noticed a group of women entering the water topless with small wood rafts loaded with cloths to wash. It was amazing, a throwback to a hundred years ago. I’ve met many Nicaraguan people while living in Costa Rica and they are the salt of the earth. Nicaragua is a beautiful country and people betrayed by corruption and crooked politicians. The politicians will destroy that country.

    • Patrick, I appreciate your comments and I know you feel the same way I do about the corruption and politics in Nicaragua. Of course, I’m not naive to think that my letter will go anywhere or be seen by anyone. I’m frustrated! I write when I’m frustrated because I have to have a way to spread the word about what is happening in Nicaragua. It’s the only thing I can do. I am a guest in this beautiful country and I really have no right to interfere in their politics.
      The Nicaraguans are more frustrated than I am…but, many don’t feel like they have a voice… yet. Their movements and protests are growing slowly. They are nervous and afraid to speak out, especially if they own businesses and land that will be expropriated by the Chinese.
      The Chinese are back on Ometepe Island, as I write. Yesterday, Ortega said, “The lake is already polluted, so why not build a canal that can bring in more jobs and money for the people?” He was blasted in La Prensa for his statements and misinformation about Lake Cocibolca. It always cracks me up when the La Prensa reports about “the unconstitutional President.”
      What’s going to happen? No one has a clue. As far as my “noble idea”, ( It makes me laugh that you called it noble) it wasn’t really intended for the Chinese. It was a way to express my feelings and spread the word. But, then again, who knows? I wrote a letter once to Ethel Kennedy asking to be her house sitter in the Kennedy Compound in Hyannisport, MA. She called me when she received my letter, and I spent a year living beside Rose Kennedy in Ethel Kennedy’s house. Maybe someone will hear my plea???

      • The Kennedys, ha ha, talk to me about corruption, and that spineless Teddy who let that poor girl drown and that other Kennedy that killed that 15 year old girl with a golf club. Papa Joe made millions smuggling whiskey and as Ambassador to Great Britten sided with the pro-Nazi politicians before WW2. I will tell you that I feel sorry for the Kennedy women, they didn’t deserve the husbands, sons and father-in-law that they got. Robert was the best of them and who knows if Joe had survived/
        Anyway, I hope you succeed in getting the Chinese to cancel their canal. You seem like an honorable person with honorable ideas. I would hate to see the only fresh water sharks in the world destroyed.

  2. Although UNESCO has no responsibility to protect the lands at stake… could your letter be rewritten in the form of a petition, with UNESCO officials as signers?
    A letter, shows concerns from one voice. A petition would allow the concerns and voices of many to be shared…

  3. That sounds truly awful. I can imagine your frustrations and feelings of helplessness. Hoping things work out for the best for the people of Ometepe.

    • You know, Anita, I’m kind of hoping my letter could be translated for Wang Jing and he would respond. Although, I believe he is only the puppet, maybe if we approach him with loving kindness, we’ll have better luck at opening the lines of communication. It can’t hurt.

  4. Oh yuck, the power of greed and money…
    We were so fortunate to enjoy a beautiful sunset on Punta Jesus Maria.
    It would be a shame to destroy the area with a monstrous hotel. It sounds like the Chinese are on a mission and preserving the beautiful land, creatures and people are not on their agenda. Keep up your perseverance!

  5. Hmmmm–I had NO idea this as happening, my friend. You know, this is such an old, old story–the usurping of other people’s land. Your open letter has an historical echo that I love and appreciate.

    Hugs from Ecuador,

  6. Ugh. Frustrating, for sure. How awful to think that this is your land that has been in your family for generations, and now having no control over what happens to it and no knowledge of what is going on. Someone here said the Chinese are about 40% of the traffic through the Panama Canal, so they would like to have their own canal. That doesn’t help me hang on to the hope that it’s all talk and the canal will never happen in Nicaragua. I also can’t figure out how if the Chinese have an agreement with Nicaragua to build a canal, how do they get resorts out of that equation?

    • Ugh is right! So, when Ortega gave the Chinese the contract for the canal, he also gave them the freedom to build resorts, ports, airports, and a railway system anywhere they want to build near the proposed route. Crazy, huh? He sold Nicaragua to the Chinese.

    • Unfortunately, no. UNESCO will reevaluate the status of our biosphere reserve in 10 years and if it no longer qualifies, then it will be taken off the list. I was hoping that our status as a biosphere reserve would provide some protection, but UNESCO has no responsibility to protect it.

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