Date: Saturday, May 24, 1997
Elaine is back in Nicaragua and the letters are coming once again: (Parenthesis are explanatory things from Lolli)
May 21, 1997
I just came from the gallery here at the Heroes y Martires (where the Sister Cities office is located) and am I ever impressed. It is lovely, and the work is excellente. I want a whole bunch of stuff there, but don't suppose I'll ever get it. Except for jicaras-I ordered jicaras, (a kind of a gourd) the plain natural carved ones with molinillos. Bet they will start stocking them for tourists after they sell me my bunch. Mirna gave me a set when I left last year, and its the one souvenir people wanted that I had.
I couldn't have had a warmer welcome when I came. Lee took me to Mirain's house to drop off my suitcases first, then we went to the cooperativa. There were the mujeres, all decked out in their Washington Apple tee shirts (Elaine's family in Wenatchee, Washington grows apples and sent a bunch of tee shirts to Nicaragua) except for Mirna, who was wearing a "Ross for Boss" shirt from the 1992 campaign (which one of Elaine's relatives was briefly involved in and had tee shirts left over from). Much squealing with lots of hugs and kisses. There were two bouquets of beautiful red tropical flowers on the table, and a huge wonderful misspelled sign painted in big red letters on the wall:
!VIENVENIDA ELENA L.L.
LEDAMOS LAS TEJEDORA!
Cecilio had painted the sign, but he wasn't there when I came. We were in the yarn room when he suddenly was standing behind me with a big grin on his face.
I think I arrived just in time. Except for the new yarn (from Susan Druding and Straw Into Gold / Crystal Palace) that had just arrived on the container, they were out. O-U-T. Out. They'd used up everything they had. They didn't even have any white yarn (from Nicaragua). So I suggested they start with the new grey yarn ....
The worry I had last year about them taking off the warps for their local-sale colchas, colchas domesticas, was right. They need to weave for the local market. Sales haven't been good here. Things designed for tourists are too pricey for locals, so they needed a loom to set up for the simpler colchas.... So now Cecilio is busy rebuilding two more of the old looms, having to make some new parts for them.
Cecilio is ever so happy to be here with his Mirna. I asked her if they were going to get married and she said yes, but she didn't know when. She works five days a week at the coop and has started back to school. She goes to colegio on Saturdays from 7am to 2pm. And yes, she said, she understood the importance of a good education. As far as I can tell, she is the top producer in the coop. I like that girl. About her going to school, Cecilio said, "Is good. Yes, is good." So at least he isn't pulling any old macho stuff on her.
You know, my Spanish is still bad, but it really is better than last year. I'm staying a Mirian's house with her three kids, Hector, Norma, and Yenifer. The kids are all taking English and I help them with their lessons. I was horrified to find Hector had taken a letter I'd written to him to his teacher. Pidgin Spanish, it must have seemed. But they say they understood what I had to say, except for one word in Hector's letter. The teacher didn't know what that word was either, so I showed it to him in my dictionary. Maybe it's Spain Spanish. How am I to know? Last night Yenifer sang "By the Ribbers of Babylon" for me. She learned it in her English class. This morning she sat on the floor and painted my toenails for me.
Mirian's kids are all sweet as can be. I love that family. And their neighbors, on both sides they are related to Mirian, treat me as if I were their friend and guest, too. Ramon, the fellow who was working on his house last year when I was here, now has a patio with clay tile flooring it all, and a beautiful new ornamental grille work garage door and front windows. Very upscale. I'd love to have it. He has four parrots, Nicaraguan, and they talk better than any parrots I've ever heard. Of course the darned things speak Spanish, but they sound like people talking-I thought they were people talking when I first heard them.
Danelia's son Moises, she says, has bad arthritis in his knee and has to use a walking stick much of the time. And her younger son Diogenes has a baby girls three months old and no job. He's learning to weave colchas for a living, on a big loom at home, to support his family. Good Lord. So far he has woven three. He and his wife Johana and the baby now live in the apartment next to Danelia, which is nice for them and relieves her mind but still deprives Danelia of the rent income for that room. There are moments when Danelia's face breaks into her wonderful impish smile, but most of the time she has the lines of worry engraved deeply into her face as Cecilio's mama does. Luchando, luchando (struggling). Lord help us.
You're not going to believe this. Yesterday evening after our walk home from work there was a nice breeze blowing at the front of the house so instead of going inside I opted to sit on the concrete bench in the front yard even though there was a young fellow sitting there already. We said Hola, and I asked him if he was studying English at school and he said no. Somehow we stumbled into my broken-Spanish type conversation. He asked me where I was from, what state? I said Washington. ?Washington? Si, Washington. His mother is in the estado de Washington. She's a nurse. She works at the ultima hospital in Wenatchee, Washington. He wrote her name for me, I think it is Ercilia Blanco. His name is Wilber Blanco. I took a couple of pictures of him and told him I would look her up when I got home. I'd take her a letter from him too. He asked me to please take some pictures of her and send to him. I said I would and asked him his address. He said he'd tell me tomorrow, he didn't know it. People don't get mail and don't write letters so they don't know their addresses. Wilber is a handsome, sweet boy.
Last night Hector brought me some papers to read. He's joined an association promoting equal rights for women. Says now women lose control of their property when they marry, men don't have to support the children they father. There were several different papers, including a commission proposed by new Presidente Aleman that states as its goal the education of youth to moral values and responsibility, recognizing that training young people is the only way they well be able to change conditions. They're also telling guys they can't beat up women, and are seeking ways to protect the mujere sola y mujere abandonada (the single women and the abandoned women) and their children. About time.
San Cristobal abierta (opened) yesterday. The mountain by Chinandega woke up, blew a pile of sand in the air. I don't know what else. Lots of geologists on TV last night. This mountain hasn't been active. So if I end up encased in a thick coating of volcanic ash, preserved for the ages, you'll know what happened. Cheers, Elaine.
P.S. from Lolli: It seems the volcanos of Nicaragua don't much care for foreign weavers. When Beth Davis was working with the weaver's in 1990 Cerro Negro deposited 3 feet of ash on the city of Leon and basically ended Beth's work there. When I was there in 1995 Cerro Gordo was puffing away again but waited until I was gone to coat Leon once more. When Elaine was last year in Leon Cerro Gordo was acting up again. Hum...