Humans of Nicaragua: The Life and Times of Don Cabo

“Deep under our feet the Earth holds its molten breath, while the bones of countless generations watch us and wait.”
― Isaac Marion, Warm Bodies

We met Don Cabo 12 years ago when my ESL student, Francisco, invited us to his cousin’s sixth birthday party. We were in charge of making the birthday cake. At the time, we didn’t realize how immensely this large extended family would entrench themselves in our hearts, and especially Don Cabo, the patriarch of the family.

Here is the story I wrote about The Birthday Party in 2005.
DSCN0694Don Cabo is 83 years young and full of delightful stories. One of my favorite stories is about the bull horn in the photo above. I Wish For to Have Happy


Don Cabo started our interview with a short autobiography:

 I was born in December 21st 1933 at 1:00 am in the small community called La Waba on the property of my grandfather. My grandfather’s name was Enacarnacion Flores from San Jorge and my grandmother’s name was Martha Gonzales from the indigenous community from Urbaite. My grandfather was the head of the workers of Somoza in the Mérida farm on Ometepe Island.

My father was Inocente Aleman (son of Zeledonia Ramos) and my mother was Catalina Flores (daughter of Enacarnacion Flores and Martha Gonzales). My full name is Fausto Ramon Aleman Flores, but everyone calls me Don Cabo.

How old are you and are you married? How long have you been married? How many children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren do you have?

  • I am 83 years old. Yes I am married with Flora Condega
  • We were married 60 years ago.
  • I have 9 children.
  • I have 26 Grandchildren
  • I have 20 (by the moment…) Great grandchildren:

Don Cabo’s 83rd birthday party.

don cabo birthday copyTell us a story of you growing up on Ometepe Island:

When I was child I was a cowboy. I cleaned the rice plantations. I hunted deer and other wild animals. It was legal because Ometepe Island had too many. My job was, is, and always will be to play the guitar.

IMG_2824Once time my father and mother baptized a child, and they choose a polite godfather. They talked about moving to a place on the island that had many flowers. At first, they thought to call it Las Flores instead of Los Ramos, as my mother was named Catalina Flores.  When we moved to the place of many flowers, on the first of January, my parents had to put a put up a sign, but they never made anything and they decided to name it Los Ramos for the first couple that lived in the community (Zeledonia Ramos ). The next people that moved to Los Ramos were: Inocente Aleman, Rosa Bonilla and Jose Bonilla. They each built a house, and then there were three houses in Los Ramos. Five years later Chana Potoy moved to Los Ramos. They lived happy and shared food ( chicken, pigs etc.)

IMG_2800One of them had a table and when somebody visited his neighbor he borrowed the table to receive the people. Inocente Aleman raised cows (Catalina’s husband), and Jose Bonilla was a fisherman and he had the first guitar in Los Ramos, and we would all get happy and play the guitar.

IMG_2820I organized dance and theater groups and that is one of the things in my life that I am most proud.
IMG_2816I made a cross and donated it to the people because a long time ago a church didn’t exist in Los Ramos. Soon after I made the cross, the idea to build the church was born and I donated the land for the church. It took five years to build the church and then an American man named Daniel helped us finished the church. He was a religious friend of one man from Los Ramos, Jose Jimenez.

396586_385070561573221_1509122162_nAfter that, I saw the need to get a school and I donated the land. We got the first teacher from Managua.  Two men went to Managua to look for the teacher and one of them was almost crashed by a car. The teacher had only the first level of elementary school. Her name was Carmen Pedrosa.  She was paid by the government and the people built the first school of straw and wood 57 years ago.
Juan Aleman, Víctor Aleman, José Potoy and I built the first school in Los Ramos.

The other man who worked hard in our little community was Jose Potoy.  He built the trail (the main road of Los Ramos). In the early days of Los Ramos the road did not exist. This man organized the people to get the space for the road.  Some people disagreed about the road and they wanted money for the space. But Jose Potoy convinced the people to gift the land for the road after months of conversations with them. It took three years. Many years later, the road was finished by the government. It is the summary of the creation of Los Ramos.

IMG_2812What are some of the changes you have seen in your lifetime on Ometepe Island? What has been the best change and the worst change?

Best changes:
1. The best change in my opinion are the boats and launchas (small boats). When I was growing up, they did not exist. We used small sailing launchitas to travel to the mainland and we didn’t go very often because sometimes there was no wind and we would be stuck in the middle of the lake for days. Other days, there was too much wind and we feared for our lives.

2. The pavement of the main road across the island is one of the best changes. Now it is easier to travel across the island.

3. The cell phone. This reminds me of a story that Don Cabo’s grandson, Francisco told me. In 2005, when we returned to the United States, we gave the Los Ramos community our BIG clunky cell phone. Reception was very poor and the signal in Los Ramos was very weak because there weren’t many cell phone towers on the island at that time.

Francisco told us that the only way to get a strong signal was to climb the tall Ceibo tree in their yard. One day, he noticed his grandmother, Don Cabo’s wife, in the top of the tree trying to make a phone call and she was stuck and unable to get back down. They had to climb the tree and carry her down.

DSCN1368The worst changes:

1. The politics
2. The society. The behavior of the people is so different and individual now.
3. The climate changes

IMG_0762What was it like when the volcano erupted?

42 years ago I had an experience with the volcano Concepcion erupting. I was on my horse coming from Mérida and I saw the eruption of Concepcion volcano. For three days the volcano spewed red lava rocks. The people left their houses to watch the eruption and pray. It was very scary.

I asked Don Cabo if he ever considered leaving the island when the volcano erupted and he said, “No, I never thought of leaving my beautiful island. I was born here and I will die here.”

What would you like to tell people about Ometepe Island that they might not know?

I would like to tell the people to respect our environment. Also, the old people had many good morals and valued respect and honesty when I was young. I would like to see our young people have more respect for their elders.

What are your greatest hopes for your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren?

Let them have many shade trees and many fruits.

16 thoughts on “Humans of Nicaragua: The Life and Times of Don Cabo

    • Anita, there is something very telling about photographing hands, isn’t there? I remember a friend of mine telling me about her anatomy class in medical school where she had to work with a cadaver. She said that most of the time, she could handle the dissections until she got to the hands. Then, it dawned on her while dissecting the hands that she was working with a human.

  1. WOW!

    What a story….. so beautiful , so touching and true to the bone ,sweet and sad, funny and heartfelt.
    I sure would love to meet the one and only DON CABO!!!!!
    The love he has in heart shines brightly thru his eyes , his hope , his faith .
    His joy and surrender is of a man who truly has had a wonderful life , pure to the core.
    What a great gift that you were able to meet him..and share his kind generosity of spirit.

    Thank you for sharing , it touched my heart . Is he still living?
    I’m certain wherever he is ,,,his light shines brightly.

  2. “. . . many shade trees and many fruits.” What a perfect, and perfectly simple, wish for the next generations!
    His statement reminded me of Barbara Kingsolver’s:
    “I don’t know what rituals my kids will carry into adulthood, whether they’ll grow up attached to homemade pizza on Friday nights, or the scent of peppers roasting over a fire, or what. I do know that flavors work their own ways under the skin, into the heart of longing. Where my kids are concerned I find myself hoping for the simplest things: that if someday they crave orchards where their kids can climb into the branches and steal apples, the world will have trees enough with arms to receive them.” ― Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life

    Both wishes bring tears to my eyes.

    • Mark, Don Cabo’s grandson went with me for the interview and helped me translate the idioms and phrases that I was unfamiliar with. After living in Nica for 11 years, I understand most conversations, but sometimes, the idioms and Nicaraguan slang words still befuddle me.

  3. Debbie,
    So glad you wrote this & sorry I missed your earlier piece. When I stayed at Los Ramos a couple years ago, Don Cabo showed up room one night with guitar in hand. I didn’t know anything about him but got a short personal concert. Very sweet. Quite an amazing, charming man whose inner joy really does CD light to the world. Thanks for portraying.

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