Leon, Nicaragua

July 7, 1996

Rosa Maria loves music, loves to dance.  She brought a radio/cassette player to the studio and sings along with it.  They knew I’d bought some Nica music tapes and asked me if I’d bring them.  Now everyone sings along with the patriotic and traditional songs.  Today is Leon Liberation Day, and when we’re through here we’re going to march in the parade.  It’s sunny and hot already.  Hey, I should carry my FSLN flag, shouldn’t I?

I’ve been having the weavers work with more subtle colors when I can, and Mirna was weaving my favorite of all time, white and natural.  A gringa came in, saw it and ordered one right off the loom.  She speaks Spanish and she talked to them about the colors she likes: white, natural, ecru, rose, soft blue, grey-green.  “Oh,” they said.  “Colores triste.”  Sad colors.  It was a surprise to hear those colors called sad.  They said they liked red, yellow, bright green, bright blue.  Happy colors.  So there you see the resistance to our taste in color.

The Fourth of July was a good day.  In the morning I had told Danelia that it was the birthday of my son Dale.  On the street, people would call out to me, “Independencia Oosa” and give me thumbs up and a smile.  (They say oosa, not U.S.A.)  Late morning at the co-op Danelia called me to come to her.  They’d put the right music on the tape player, and when it started they all linked arms and sang Happy Birthday to Dale, first in English which was a kick, and then in Spanish.  When they came to the “to Dale” part they’d all point north.  If Dale had been outdoors and the wind had been right, he probably could have heard them, they were so loud.

That morning Cecilio and I went to the sawmill and bought some more lumber.  This was the fourth time we hired a horse cart to haul for us.  It costs ten cordobas, a little over a dollar.  This time Cecilio told the driver I wanted to ride back in the cart.  So I did, perched upon the lumber.  When we approached the cooperativa and the weavers saw me riding the cart a great cheer went up.  You’d think I’d won the Olympics.  

At 5 p.m. there was a meeting with craftspeople and some organizers about starting a crafts gallery for Nica crafts, then at 7 p.m. there was a gringa meeting for dinner.  The first Thursday of every month the norteamericanos get together for dinner at a local restaurant.  I hadn’t known about it before, and besides I was staying too far out in the country to attend.  But this was the Fourth of July.  There were American flags on the tables; red, white and blue Independence Day napkins, and some had brought pot-luck: potato salad, chocolate chip cookies and Rice Crispies-marshmallow bars, all to give a touch if home.  These others are here long-term, unlike me.  One for a year, others for two or three years, one of the Maryknoll sisters has been here for 24 years.

I felt really good at that dinner and I think I discovered why the Nicaraguans like Americans so much.  These are wonderful people, dedicated, unselfish, not here for personal gain.  So if these are the types of Americans the Nicas come in contact with, no wonder they love us.  But they still hate the CIA.  Rightfully so.

Tourism here is practically non-existent.  What the reaction will be when the tourists start coming may be different, so when you do come, mind your manners.  Don’t undo all this good work.

The Maryknoll Sisters had “heard” about me.  They asked if I would come work with them next year.  They’ve been trying to start a carpentry shop with some of the women they work with.  They would like to have the women instructed in how to make and repair the pews in the church, and build other things.  I’m invited to dinner at their house this coming Thursday.  I’m sorry I didn’t meet them before this.  I loved them as soon as I met them.  They seemed to glow with goodness.

On to the next letter

 Back to 1996 letters.