Léon, Nicaragua September 19, 1998
Three weeks ago Cecilio went to Guatemala to look for work. “I can’t help my family here,” he said and took off by Tica Bus for Guatemala City. It’s a two-day trip and if you count Nicaragua it goes through four countries: from here to Honduras, to El Salvador where you spend the night. Then on to Guatemala City.
He had told me, “I’ll wash cars, paint houses, do whatever kind of work I can.” I didn’t have much hope for him, but a person has to try.
Yesterday we heard he had come back. Mirna was on pins and needles waiting to see him but she didn’t say much until we had come home and were sitting outdoors in the front yard. “I was hoping Cecilio would come,” she said. “Of course,” I replied. “Me, too.”
Just before dark he came. Mirna let him in the locked gate to the yard. They walked together up to where I was, he sat down and started talking. He hadn’t come home because he couldn’t find a job, he had found a job. His third day in Guatemala there was a classified ad in the paper for house painters. He applied and got the job; the fact that the boss was Nicaraguan didn’t hurt. The group, the crew, share a house and get their meals and he gets about $50 a month besides. Far more than he could make in Nicaragua. He is so happy and so proud; it was good to see.
He said Guatemala City is beautiful and there is no “delinquencia”. It’s hot in the daytime and cold at night, but he did take his warm clothes with him. There is good bus service and you can take a bus to the beach where there are many norteamericanos. He talked to a guy from San Diego who was surfing the waves.
In brief, he’s happy as a lark and very proud. Isn’t it amazing what having a job can do?
He came back to get his documents all in order, get a permanent visa at the Guatemalan embassy. He brought some money for his mother. He never phoned because it costs about $3.50 por minuto, por un minuto. His mother had been wringing her hands with worry, though I had tried to tell her it was too soon to expect to hear.
Mirna really missed Cecilio and occasionally would say something to me about it. When he came here she was cooking dinner and one time when she went to stir the pot, Cecilio told me he had to make money so he could marry Mirna. But when he came after three weeks separation, they didn’t embrace or kiss. They sat in chairs about six feet across from each other and talked for hours. I don’t think that reserve is typical of Nicaragua.
They included me in their conversation even when I tried to leave. One interesting part, when Mirna said something about her brother in the Guardia (army), Cecilio started talking about when he was in the army in 1986. When the Sandinista police came to their house his mother told him to hide in back, but the police came and got him anyway. He was only 12 years old. He had to have been small because he isn’t big now. They took him and two of his brothers, the oldest of whom was later killed in action. But Cecilio talked of how scared he and the other young boys were during the fighting, how they kept their heads down when the bullets came over shwoosht, shwoosht. “Joven,” he said (Young). “We were young.”
People ask me sometimes if they wear sweatshirts here. I had my doubts, but the days of heavy, heavy rains, when a bit of wind comes up it gets cold. Everyone I saw who had a sweatshirt was wearing one. I wrapped up in a colcha to watch TV and I was surprised it was necessary.
I went to church again, this time with Mirna and Cecilio. It was a communion service and they had one of those little round trays with the tiny individual glasses such as the Baptists use. When we were walking home, I asked Mirna if they used grape juice or wine. She said, “Coca Cola.” At first I thought she was kidding, but no, they do use Coca Cola. The pitifully small collections they take up, it’s a wonder they can afford that. If it weren’t for my shamefully small contribution, they wouldn’t get one dollar total in the collection.
Mirian’s daughter Norma is back from Costa Rica. She was sick all the time she was there so she came home. This girl deserves a break – she’s the hardest worker I’ve ever seen. In Costa Rica she worked from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. She would get room and board and $25 (US) a month. She planned to save the money for her education.
I keep thinking what a blessing she would be to someone in the US who needed help. She’d be a dream employee, but I’d insist that she be allowed time to go to school to learn English and business. I’ve told Mirian that Norma is a jewel beyond price. For three years I’ve watched her work around the house; she never stops working, she’s completely dependable, and she maintains a good disposition all the time. I’m going to see if I can somehow help her go to school.
There are plenty of people here who want help, but I look at the ones who work hard and don’t ask for anything. I’ve got a real “thing” about that. For three years I’ve watched Mirna and Norma work, be dependable, maintain a sense of humor in all situations, and never ask for or expect anything. I’ve never met young women I’ve admired more.
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