Breaking news! In a dramatic policy change, the legislative branch of Nicaragua, the National Assembly, confirmed today that Mandarin will become the official language of Nicaragua. An amendment to the Nicaraguan Constitution requires all foreign residents and nationals to pass a Mandarin proficiency test.
In expectation of thousands of Chinese immigrants entering Nicaragua to work on the proposed Nicaraguan canal, the spokesperson for the President of the National Assembly states that the rule change is a result of concerns that national and foreign residents will not easily assimilate into local communities where the Chinese immigrants will settle. Without a solid foundation of the Mandarin language, it will adversely affect the local populations.
In a prepared statement being distributed to foreign embassies, consulates, and the Nicaraguan embassy, as well as immigration offices in Managua, the National Assembly states, “We recognize that Mandarin proficiency will be a major predictor to adapt to Nicaragua and a new Chinese culture. We have become increasingly concerned about recent clashes between the Chinese and local residents. Language problems may be causing the clashes due to cultural differences and misunderstandings.” Continue reading →
“Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools, that don’t have brains enough to be honest.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
I think I have been duped! Last week, a Department of Health medical brigade (MINSA) came to Ometepe Island offering medical services. They walked door to door accompanied by a police officer on a motorcycle.
It’s common to see a MINSA medical brigade here. When severe flooding eroded the shoreline, MINSA came door to door passing out free antibiotics for Leptospirosis. During the rainy season, they pass out a poison powder to sprinkle in standing water where mosquitoes may breed. But, they never come accompanied by the police, and they are always local MINSA employees.
Marina was cleaning my house, and I was raking the yard when I saw the medical brigade come to my door. I didn’t catch the beginning of the conversation and my Spanish vocabulary with medical words is severely lacking. Although much of the conversation was lost in translation, this is my interpretation of the conversation that took place:
Male nurse: We are offering free medical exams at the hospital on Friday and Saturday.
Me: Great! Sign up my husband and me.
Male Nurse: No. I can’t do that. It is an exam of your ‘bahena’.
Me: What is a bahena and why can’t my husband get the exam, too?
Me: Is it an exam for your heart? For your stomach?
Laughter all around.
Marina: No. It is an exam of your ‘bahena’ and a papagramo exam. ( she said while holding back a chuckle)
Male Nurse: Laughing, while he pointed to my vagina.
Me: Oh, I get it. You are offering free vaginal exams and Pap tests. Sign me up.
I signed a sheet of paper and included my telephone number so they could call me for the time of the appointment. Friday and Saturday passed, and I never received a call. Then, I read this in La Prensa:
courtesy of La Prensa
For threeconsecutive daysan allegedbrigadeof the Ministryof Health,heavily guardedby police, has tried uselessly to getinto the communitiesofSacramento,Moyogalpa, OmetepeIsland, where residentsmaintain anarmedencampmentwith sticks, stones and evenmachetes. AlbertoLopez,the countyEsquipulas,Moyogalpa, said villagersreject theaction ofMoHfor orderinginformationand asktheir opinion on theCanal.
Herelots of timeshave beenbrigadesof the Ministry ofHealth, to vaccinate and dispense medicinesand they have nevercome up withpolice andmilitary riot police, so peoplejoinedand theywill notbe allowed to cometo our communities, Lopez said.
He noted thatthe communities wherethe brigadeis interested inthe surveyisinEsquipulas, Los Angeles andSacramento.Peopledecided tokeep them outbecause we want totell you thatnobody here wants tosell their property, are inour territory andwe are defendingwhat is ours, arguedLópez.
JuanBarrios, who lives in the Sacramento community, againreported thatisland communitieshave returnedto ringtheir churchbellstoalert the publicwhenpollstersbrigadeand policeandriot policetrying to enterthe community.
For threedays straightdoingthisencampmentto asktheseinterviewersleave hereand the policewillsay we arenot willing toget us outof our territory.Today(lastFriday)morning, the police tried topersuadeformaintence, but the response ofSacramentowastoleave heresaidBarrios.JuanBarrios, a resident of the community ofSacramento, said whenthe brigadewithdrewassumptionsthreatened tonotsendmedicinesto the health centerof the townand toldnot to returnforthat place.Villagerssaid theywill not moveuntil thebrigade andthe policedesist fromentering thecommunity toaskpersonal data on the draftof the GrandCanal.
So what exactly did I sign? Who knows? I had been warned by local friends…after the fact…never to sign my name to anything. Have I been duped? Probably. I may have signed a petition in support of the grand canal. They never asked me any questions about the canal…I suppose that once they figured that I didn’t know what a ‘bahena’ was that I would stupidly sign anything. And, I did!
We assume so many things in living in Nicaragua. I want to believe that the police are here to protect us. I want to believe that the Ministry of Health is only offering medical services that we are unable to get on Ometepe Island. I want to believe that the Nicaraguan government wouldn’t use tricks and treachery to gain support for the Nicaraguan canal.
I’ve learned never to assume anything and never to sign anything without questioning. Always expect the unexpected while living in the land of the not quite right. Life goes on…but I’ll always wonder what I signed…and probably never find out the truth.
“Create with the heart; build with the mind.” ― Criss Jami
Ron and I have known Francheco for over ten years. When we first moved to Ometepe Island to manage a youth hostel, Francheco worked at the hostel. In 2012, Francheco’s new yellow house and property were expropriated by the Nicaraguan government to make way for the La Paloma airport. He dismantled his house, brick by brick, dug up his newly planted saplings and flowers, and relocated to a beautiful piece of land south of the airport, near Punta Jesus Maria. The House that Francheco Built.
He married a beautiful Nicaraguan woman. They have a little son, now. Francheco built a temporary house for them and started a restaurant,Dos Mangoes. You would think this story has a fairytale ending, right? But, not so quickly.
Francheco’s dream was to build a dome home. He is extremely talented, which translates to his ability to create from the heart, yet build with his mind. With the help of one worker, he began building a dome home two years ago, one row of bricks at a time.
I don’t often respond to the WordPress Daily Post, however Someone Else’s Islandspoke to me personally. Ron recently asked me, “Debbie, what would we take if we were forced to leave Ometepe Island?” My post is a twist on Someone Else’s Island, instead of being stranded on an island, what would we take if we were forced to leave?
Everyone is nervously awaiting the construction of the Nicaraguan Canal by the Chinese. Construction is supposed to start on December 22nd. I am taking this personally because what if Ometepe Island becomes someone else’s island? I heard rumors…that’s all we get…that over 300,000 Chinese will be granted Nicaraguan citizenship to work on the canal.
The map below shows that one half of our beloved island will be controlled by the Chinese. Everything in red along the canal route.
The Weekly Photo Challenge is Converge. The Nicaraguan people have converged or assembled for many things recently. Using some of John Lennon’s lyrics for “Come Together”,this is a visual story of the ways in which the Nicaraguans converge.
Here come old flattop he come grooving up slowly He got joo-joo eyeball he one holy roller
Nicaraguans converge at the cemetery to celebrate the life of my neighbor, Don Jose. Continue reading →
“One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
Over 2,000 people attended the march against the canal in Moyogalpa, Ometepe Island on Saturday, November 15, 2014. When I filmed the march, it surprised me that there were less people in attendance. The last march against the canal drew 4,000 people.
It wasn’t until the march was over that I learned of military tactics to prevent hundreds of people in buses and trucks from attending. They were detained at check points along the main road from Altagracia by the Nicaraguan military.
There has been a lot of “detaining” lately in Nicaragua. After the first protest march on Ometepe Island, the ferry was detained for 20 minutes by the Nicaraguan military. I know of several other situations where people were detained in Nicaragua because of taking photos of the canal route, or simply trying to fish off the coast of Ometepe Island.
Our hands will not tremble when we bring out sharp machetes to protect our families, our
land, and our basic human rights. ~ The Nicaraguan people
I was going to write a post about the many uses of the machete in Nicaragua, but with recent protests and lack of transparency about the Nicaraguan Canal Project, I foresee many Nicaraguans sharpening their machetes. The comments below represent the alarming anger, mistrust, and nervousness of the Nicaraguan people.
Thousands of locals along the route have begun protesting against their impending expropriations with several demonstrations having taken place in just the last few weeks. Many of the signs they carry read: “No Chinos!” The anger has become so intense that police have begun patrolling outside of the Chinese engineers’ headquarters in the provincial city of Tola.The Red CanalContinue reading →
“Speculation is an effort, probably unsuccessful, to turn a little money into a lot. Investment is an effort, which should be successful, to prevent a lot of money from becoming a little.” ― Fred Schwed Jr.
from La Prensa Newspaper
Yesterday, October 24, 2014, over 4,000 people protested on Ometepe Island against the Nicaragua Canal Project. Ron and I didn’t go to the protests because we are guests in this country and we didn’t feel it was appropriate to demonstrate. However, that doesn’t stop me from speculating about the effects this canal will have on our adopted country and its resilient people.