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 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:
For three consecutive days an alleged brigade of the Ministry of Health, heavily guarded by police, has tried uselessly to get into the communities of Sacramento, Moyogalpa, Ometepe Island, where residents maintain an armed encampment with sticks, stones and even machetes. Alberto Lopez, the county Esquipulas, Moyogalpa, said villagers reject the action of MoH for ordering information and ask their opinion on the Canal.
Here lots of times have been brigades of the Ministry of Health, to vaccinate and dispense medicines and they have never come up with police and military riot police, so people joined and they will not be allowed to come to our communities, Lopez said.
He noted that the communities where the brigade is interested in the survey is in Esquipulas, Los Angeles and Sacramento. People decided to keep them out because we want to tell you that nobody here wants to sell their property, are in our territory and we are defending what is ours, argued López.
Juan Barrios, who lives in the Sacramento community, again reported that island communities have returned to ring their church bells to alert the public when pollsters brigade and police and riot police trying to enter the community.
For three days straight doing this encampment to ask these interviewers leave here and the police will say we are not willing to get us out of our territory. Today (last Friday) morning, the police tried to persuade for maintence, but the response of Sacramento was to leave here said Barrios.Juan Barrios, a resident of the community of Sacramento, said when the brigade withdrew assumptions threatened to not send medicines to the health center of the town and told not to return for that place. Villagers said they will not move until the brigade and the police desist from entering the community to ask personal data on the draft of the Grand Canal.
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.
“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 Canal Continue 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.
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.
“I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues.” ~ Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
This is what the locals on Ometepe Island think of the proposed Nicaraguan Canal Project.
NO to the Canal!
Let me personalize the Nicaraguan Canal Project for those of you who are not familiar with Ometepe Island because personalizing our oasis of peace will give you a better understanding of the ecological disaster lurking like the grim reaper in Ometepe’s future.
This is only the beginning. Keep reading if you love Ometepe Island.
“Getting money is like digging with a needle, spending it is like water soaking into sand.” ~Japanese Proverb.
The Proposed Route of the Nicaraguan Canal
I may be naïve, but I subscribe to the idea that nobody is making strategic decisions about the Nicaraguan Canal Project. I’ve followed the Nicaraguan Canal Project for two years, now. The talk is grand, but the transparency surrounding the canal is nonexistent.
“I take issue with many people’s description of people being “Illegal” Immigrants. There aren’t any illegal Human Beings as far as I’m concerned.”
― Dennis Kucinich
Tito left Ometepe Island on June 9, 2004 in search of a better life for his family. Until he was 24 years old, he lived with his single mother. His father abandoned the family when he was 14 years old and now lives in Costa Rica with another woman. This is the story of Tito’s journey to the United States, as told to me by a local Ometepian.
Tito’s story is ahead. Keep reading.