The weekly photo challenge is wall. Nicaragua abounds with walls of war, remembrances of their defense of personal rights, freedom, and dignity. Honoring their Nicaraguan heroes is especially clear on the walls in the cities.
I decided to try something new. I subscribed to the Weekly Writing Challenge on WordPress. This week, the challenge is Stylish Imitation. Weekly Challenge here. Dr. Seuss has always been one of my favorite authors. So, in honor of Dr. Seuss, I have attempted to imitate his style in writing The Mangroves.
The Reserva Natural Isla Juan Venado is a 22 kilometer stretch of mangrove swamp in Las Penitas, Nicaragua. Ron and I took a three-hour tour through this incredible mangrove swamp. The variety of birds, turtles, and other wildlife awed me. The entire ride, reminded me of Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax and the need to protect this fragile area. Unfortunately, my camera’s batteries went dead half way through the tour. Isn’t that always the case? Hopefully, my words, in delirious imitation of Dr. Seuss, will portray my feelings about the need to protect this nature reserve. Enjoy!
Way back in the swamp, where the mangroves still grow
and the land is still soft,
and the tides ebb and flow,
and the songs of the Green Herons go kuk, kuk, kuk, kuk…
the tides come twice daily and cover it with muck.
And I first saw the mangroves!
Born of thick, glutinous mud!
Whose aerial roots breathe with large pores in and out
Roots snorkeling and twisting for miles all about.
And, under the mangroves, I saw a brown bas-i-lisk
A Jesus like lizard, walking on water enjoying the frisk
as it darted about, eating insects, taking risks.
From the brackish waters,
where other plants cannot grow,
sprung fish nurseries and turtles,
swimming playfully below.
But those Mangroves! Those Mangroves!
Red! Black! and White!
They must be protected,
from Global Warming and blight!
Anchoring their stilt-like roots
between land and the sea,
Mangroves shelter wildlife,
and give food to you and me.
When the sea churns and wails
and the swells surge ashore,
the Mangroves, like policemen,
protect us…and more!
I felt a great calling,
an awakening, a start
I must tell the world!
We can all take a part!
With so little known of the future
it’s important to say,
You’re in charge of the mangroves,
the fish, and the bays.
The bas-i-lisks, and Green Herons
are depending on you
to monitor and protect them
and see them grow true.
Their lives…they are fragile!
Be gentle and watch
as they flourish, and breathe,
and gain strength…and don’t rush!
For life is uncertain,
we must all be aware
of the connections in nature
and the lives that we share.
We depend on one another,
through thick and through thin,
With your help… together
we can be whole once again.
The arrival of the Nahuatl began around 1200 AD. Related to the Aztecs, they migrated to the south when their Nahua empire was destroyed by another tribe, the Chichimecas. Nicaragua takes its name from the indigenous tribal Chief Nicarao, who lived around Lake Nicaragua in the late 1400s.
In 1524, Hernandez de Cordoba, Spanish conquistador, founded the first Spanish permanent settlements in the region, including two of Nicaragua’s principal towns: Granada on Lake Nicaragua, and Leon, located west of Lake Managua.
The Spanish conquistadors tried to impose their religion, customs, and culture on the indigenous ethnic groups. For the most part, they were successful. Today, Nicaragua is predominately Hispanic. Spanish became the language of the people, and Catholicism became the almost universal religion.
Walker’s troops and Nicaraguan troops fought a historic battle at San Jacinto hacienda on September 14, 1856, which is now celebrated as a national holiday. In 1857, the Liberals and Conservatives united to drive Walker out of office. He returned to the USA, and after several attempts to return to Central America, he sailed from Mobile in August 1860 and landed in Honduras. Here he was taken prisoner by Captain Salmon, of the British navy, and was surrendered to the Honduran authorities, by whom he was tried and condemned to be shot. He was executed on the 12th of September 1860.
The shadow is that of Augusto C. Sandino, a Nicaraguan general small in statue, but gigantic when it came to patriotic conscience. On January 6, 1927, North American troops entered Nicaragua, arguing that lives and property of U.S. citizens had to be protected. With the support of an army of peasants Sandino showed the world that he was not permitting the exploitation of his free, sovereign country. He was declared hero of the dignity of Latin America, battling against North American imperialists.
A truce was declared in 1933, but unfortunately in 1932, the National Guard was headed for the first time in history by a Nicaraguan military: Anastasio Somoza García. When the U.S. military departed, their parting gift was to set up the National Guard. Somoza was a long-time friend of the U.S. and became heavily involved in assisting the U.S. in developing the National Guard.
The next year, General Somoza, started an evident persecution of old Sandinista soldiers, illegally arresting, hurting, and even killing these men. Sandino complained to the puppet President Sarcasa. Sandino was invited to a gala by the president and the same Somoza. After arranging a compromise of ceasefire, Sandino accepted the offer. On the road, in Managua, the car of Sandino was intercepted by soldiers of the National Guard. The soldiers then escorted Sandino and two of his generals to a place where the hero and his men were brutally shot to death. And sadly, all Sandino wanted was a free country!
Rigoberto López Pérez was known for the assassination of Anastasio Somoza García, the long-time dictator in Nicaragua, who controlled several puppet presidents. Born in Leon, he was a poet and composer. On September 21, 1956, he infiltrated a party in which Somoza attended, and shot him in the chest. Lopéz was killed instantly in a hail of bullets, and Somoza died a few days later in Panama.
Anastasio Somoza’s son, Luis Somoza Debayle, assumed the presidency after his father was assassinated. He was educated in the U.S. and ruled from 1957 to 1967. Luis and his younger brother, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, shared NO brotherly love. Luis made Anastasio head of the National Guard because of a family obligation, however; Luis wanted no part of his younger brother becoming president. Unfortunately, Luis died of a heart attack a few months before a rigged “election” in which Anastasio Somoza Debayle assumed the presidency.
Anastasio ruled with the power of his beloved National Guard crushing any and all rebellions. By 1970, the general population of Nicaraguans had no love for their leader. After the devastating earthquake of 1972, Anastasio ripped off all the international funds Nicaragua received to rebuild…and all hell broke loose with the Sandinista Nicaraguan rebels, led by Carlos Fonseca.
Carlos was a Nicaraguan teacher and librarian, who founded the Sandinista Liberation Front (FSLN) in 1963. Known for his poor eyesight, notice the dark framed glasses in the mural. In his earlier years, he became enamored with politics and idolized Sandino. Between 1959 and 1963, Fonseca and his motley crew of revolutionaries experimented with a variety of organizational forms. He had hoped to model the revolution in Nicaragua after the Cuban revolution. Fonseca fought hard, but died in an ambush in the Nicaraguan mountains in 1976, three years before the FSLN took power.
In 1977, when Jimmy Carter was President of the U.S., he began to press Somoza to change his image, clean up the National Guard, and stop terrorizing the people of his country or face losing U.S. support. On January 10, 1978, Pedro Chamorro, editor of La Prenza and a very vocal opponent of Somoza, was assassinated on his way to work. Resistance and violence to the Somoza regime continued. In May, 1979 the U.S. feared that if Somoza came down, a Communist regime would take its place, and they were prepared to do almost anything to prevent that from happening. So, the U.S. approved an IFM loan of $66 million to the Somoza regime. However, even that wasn’t enough to stop the uprising. By June, 1979, after a televised execution of Bill Stewart, an ABC newsman, by Somoza’s National Guard, the sympathies of the U.S. people had turned to the Sandinista rebels. The U.S. government tried to compromise with the Sandinista rebels, but the FSLN wanted only complete and total surrender.
July 17,1979, Somoza flew to Miami, and the FSLN took control of Nicaragua. Somoza eventually moved to Paraguay, where he was assassinated in 1980 by a Nicaraguan rebel.
From the beginning, Nicaragua has been under attack. Its autonomy and sovereignty are repeatedly impeded. When the Sandinista forces entered Managua on July 20, 1979 hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans celebrated a short-lived ideological freedom. Since the 1850’s, the U.S. government has intervened in Nicaragua…and once again, in the 1980’s the U.S. reared its bullied head.
As the Nicaraguans worked toward self-sufficiency, President Ronald Reagan, fearing a socialist take-over in Nicaragua, secretly and without approval of Congress, funded the Contra War to undermine the Sandinista government. This disastrous ten-year war cost 60,000 lives, and destroyed the country’s economy and infrastructure with estimated losses of $178 billion dollars.
Still, the Nicaraguans continued to fight for their freedom and their right to self-rule. In 1984, the International Court of Justice ruled in favor of Nicaragua against the United States and awarded reparations to Nicaragua. The ICJ ruled that the U.S. had violated international law by supporting the Contras in their rebellion against the Nicaraguan government and by mining Nicaraguan harbors. But, the U.S. blocked enforcement of the judgment, and prevented Nicaragua from actually receiving any monetary compensation.
Old statues of Somoza were destroyed. Today, the Nicaraguan people are organizing to help one another survive. The U.S. continues to intervene, but the Nicaraguans continue to push forward with their passion and devotion for sovereignty and autonomy.
It looks as if my simple account of the history of Nicaragua, as interpreted through this famous mural in Leon, has bored the poor Nicaraguan to death. So, with that, I close my turbulent account and end with a poem:
The voice that would reach you, Hunter, must speak
in Biblical tones, or in the poetry of Walt Whitman.
You are primitive and modern, simple and complex;
you are one part George Washington and one part Nimrod.
You are the United States,
future invader of our naïve America
with its Indian blood, an America
that still prays to Christ and still speaks Spanish.
You are strong, proud model of your race;
you are cultured and able; you oppose Tolstoy.
You are an Alexander-Nebuchadnezzar,
breaking horses and murdering tigers.
(You are a Professor of Energy,
as current lunatics say).
You think that life is a fire,
that progress is an irruption,
that the future is wherever
your bullet strikes.
The United States is grand and powerful.
Whenever it trembles, a profound shudder
runs down the enormous backbone of the Andes.
If it shouts, the sound is like the roar of a lion.
And Hugo said to Grant: ‘The stars are yours.’
(The dawning sun of the Argentine barely shines;
the star of Chile is rising..) A wealthy country,
joining the cult of Mammon to the cult of Hercules;
while Liberty, lighting the path
to easy conquest, raises her torch in New York.
But our own America, which has had poets
since the ancient times of Netzahualcoyotl;
which preserved the footprint of great Bacchus,
and learned the Panic alphabet once,
and consulted the stars; which also knew Atlantic
(whose name comes ringing down to us in Plato)
and has lived, since the earliest moments of its life,
in light, in fire, in fragrance, and in love–
the America of Moctezuma and Atahualpa,
the aromatic America of Columbus,
Catholic America, Spanish America,
the America where noble Cuauhtémoc said:
‘I am not in a bed of roses’–our America,
trembling with hurricanes, trembling with Love:
O men with Saxon eyes and barbarous souls,
our America lives. And dreams. And loves.
And it is the daughter of the Sun. Be careful.
Long live Spanish America!
A thousand cubs of the Spanish lion are roaming free.
Roosevelt, you must become, by God’s own will,
the deadly Rifleman and the dreadful Hunter
before you can clutch us in your iron claws.
And though you have everything, you are lacking one thing:
“A wall is a very big weapon. It’s one of the nastiest things you can hit someone with.” ~ Banksy (Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall)
Leon street murals represent the identity of the city. They are visual historical accounts of political activism, proclamations of unity, and stories of injustice. Street art fascinates me. It spreads information to the illiterate, visually represents cultural pride, and expresses passionate reactions to social, economic, and political turmoil.
Banksy was right! A wall is a very big weapon. Personally, I would defend a war of walls, over weapons of mass destruction any day!
Enjoy the slideshow. I’ve thrown in a few paintings from the Museum of Culture, too. The painting of Ronald Reagan sitting on the shoulders of a peasant woman is particularly haunting to me. I can identify Henry Kissinger as the little joker on the bottom left, but who is the joker with the dagger on the bottom right?
Leon, a city of revolution fever, where bullet holes pierced decaying cathedrals and adobe walls during the Sandinista Revolution of 1979. We visited Leon to gain an understanding of the history, culture, and traditions of our adopted country. We left with a greater appreciation of the sacrifices made, and the impact of the controversial Sandinista Revolution. In one year, Nicaraguans went from being ruled by a strict right-wing Somoza dictatorship, to being controlled by left-wing idealistic revolutionaries.
On the western side of town is one of the Sandinista’s strongholds, a rather decrepit looking building that now houses the Asociacion de Combatientes Historicos Heroes de Veracruz, or better known as the Museum of Revolution. The building, which has not seen any renovations since the revolution, housed the former Palace of Communications of Somoza. Riddled with bullet holes inside and out, I felt as if I was walking through a recent battle site. The walls oozed smells of gunfire and the whispers of the wounded cried out from beyond their graves.
Our guide, Dionisio Meza Romero, a former Sandinista soldier, sorrowfully pointed out photos of friends with whom he had fought and who had died for the cause. In one old photo, he proudly pointed out his picture, as a very young and idealistic soldier smiling for the camera. Then, to our surprise, he lifted his t-shirt and showed us the shrapnel wound in his back. This was his badge of courage.
The intimacy of this first-person gesture and the passion he demonstrated for the revolution, made the experience REAL and unforgettable. It reminded me of the time I visited the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Museum in Hiroshima, Japan. Surrounded by twisted children’s lunch boxes and photos of charred bodies, I began to weep with uncontrollable sorrow. A young Japanese woman sensed my despair and silently wrapped her arms around me to comfort me. She whispered in my ear and patted me on the back until my tears stopped flowing.
We climbed to the third story of the building, out a window, and on the tin roof where we were greeted with a spectacular panoramic view of the city. Busy streets full of people, volcanoes in the distance, and cathedrals in all directions dotted the landscape. Where in the world can a person visit a museum and be treated to a roof top perch of the city?
Returning to street level, as another Sandinista soldier chased after us hoping we would buy a painting of Sandino, I was reminded why we chose Nicaragua as our adopted country. Like the museum, it is raw, real, and passionately unforgettable.