by Pamela S. Boulware
Kendra L. Kingsbury
A delegation of three men, six women, and 5 delegation leaders of varying ages and backgrounds made up the core components of the Witness for Peace (WFP) Spring Break 2010 Nicaragua group. Our goals were varying, but all added to the central mission of WFP, “to support peace, justice and sustainable economies in the Americas by changing U.S. policies and corporate practices which contribute to poverty and oppression in Latin America and the Caribbean.” We arrived at the capitol, Managua and managed to travel along the Northwest side up to Esteli and Madriz and down the Southeast side through Granada during our ten-day stay.
We dedicated classroom time to discuss the history of WFP and Nicaragua, including the cycles of military and economic violence, the neo-liberal model, debt, structural adjustment, free trade agreements including DR- CAFTA, labor, action planning, what the U.S. is currently doing to help out and what we’ve done in the past, as well as investment within the country. Our trip also consisted of going to Centro Cultural Batahola Norte and taking a mural tour (this was just one of the many community centers we visited on our trip. This one in particular offers art classes to children, scholarships to those wishing to attend college, a library, and practical skills training for unemployed adults http://www.friendsofbatahola.org/), historical sites tour of Nicaragua, meeting with a Humboldt Center environmentalist, meeting with a Nicaragua economist, going to Esperanza en Acción (Hope through Action, a fair trade organization http://www.esperanzaenaccion.org/), and doing a home stay at the camp in El Regadio (consisted of meeting their community leaders, visiting one of their sole job market opportunities- the tobacco factory, and learning about and living with people of that community). We also visited the US Embassy and ProNicaragua, an investment agency that aims“To contribute to sustainable economic development of Nicaragua and facilitate the creation of new jobs in the country through the attraction of world-class foreign investment” (http://www.pronicaragua.org/index.php?lang=en).
Emmanuel Wallerstein said it best; “trade made rich countries richer and poor countries poorer”. In the United States the concept of self is very important, i.e. what can I do to get ahead. Along with the sense of self, there is an abundance of resources, clothes, cars, loans and education. In Nicaragua there is a strong cultural difference in the centrality of community and a lack of choice because of resources. Does the United States take into consideration cultural differences such as these, the ideology of self, community, resources, and choice, when promoting or bringing in long-term development within Nicaragua? Instead of yes or no, reflect on this: The minority within Nicaragua would be the wealthy and government officials, while the majority consists of the poor. When decisions are made about a company being moved to Nicaragua, the minority negotiates with major companies leaving the majority to struggle with the effect of major developments such as the destruction of the forest and the pollution of drinking water within Nicaragua.
As we have seen in Nicaragua, the minority invests a large amount of time bringing in large companies and the majority works hard to get the attention of minority leaders. Maria Ivania, a community leader who helped to start a health clinic in her home, helped her community obtain adequate electricity by going with community members and leaders to government offices as often as they needed to stress the need for electricity in their community. Maria’s community, which is a squatter community, is faced with having the land they live on taken away from them because the land is deemed not suitable to reside because of the danger of possible landslides. As a result of companies moving into Nicaragua, Maria’s community is also faced with the destruction of their woodland and polluted drinking water, in that companies are cutting down trees and leaking oil and other harmful chemicals in their water supply. The community is in the process of taking action against these acts.
In Nicaragua the idea of community and the act of togetherness gives people hope that their way of life will get better. The majority, the poor, in Nicaragua want change so they take action and plan for improvement and there is an ongoing struggle to have the majority voice heard by the minority.