Thursday, August 6, 2020
Tuesday, August 4, 2020
|excerpt from RFTOP No.72052420R00004|
|July 2020 distribution of PPE|
Monday, August 3, 2020
I battle depression and lately it feels like it might be winning. I’m not the fighter I used to be. I’m tired and weary to my bones, but yesterday I was shaken to my soul.
Being depressed makes it difficult for me to exercise. Being stuck in the house adds to my depression, but yesterday, I decided enough is enough and I needed to move… then… I read an article about a U.S. StateDepartment paper that was leaked [RFTOP No: 72052420R00004 Responsive Assistance in Nicaragua (pgs 4-17*)]. The leaked paper describes the plan to destabilize Nicaragua, wreck the economy of Nicaragua, use the pandemic to cause chaos, pour money into the opposition to Nicaragua's government and use its U.S. influence to change the next election...and if all that doesn’t work, to then sponsor a coup.
Reading this article, my first thought was “I don’t want to live through seeing Nicaragua suffer again.” I then stayed in our bedroom most of the day wallowing in self-pity.
Tomorrow I will write more on this 14-page leaked document*. But today, I want to try to explain the depression that this country feels.
|Reagan on Nicaragua's shoulders - Painting Leon museum|
For decades before the 1980s, Nicaraguans lived under U.S.-sponsored dictators who were brutal. In 1979, Nicaragua saw the end of those dictatorships after many years of insurrection. The new government did not execute those who propped up the dictatorship and had done horrid things like torture and murder, but rather gave them the option of jail time or exile. Most - if not all - left and became the people to which the U.S. gave money, weapons, and training to wreak havoc and war on the new Sandinista government which was trying to lift the nation out of poverty with health care, literacy campaigns, education, land reform, community development, etc.
Kathy, Mike, Sarah and I came to Nicaragua in the '80s and saw hope among people who had endured so much pain and poverty even while they were at war. But even with the hope, there was death and lack of resources from the economic embargo that the U.S. placed on this nation.
|Protesting U.S. Policy in front of U.S. Embassy Managua|
In 1989, the U.S. basically said, “Elect this person, Violeta Chamorro, or the war continues.” The nation cried “Uncle” and fell into a pit of depression, which was when we moved to Nicaragua in 1994. Gone was the health care system. Gone was free education. Gone was the hope.
For the next 16 years, Nicaraguans lived through fraudulent elections with the U.S. backing any joker other than the Sandinista candidate. They got Pres. Chamorro elected, who allowed all the progress from the 1980s to die. Then they got Pres. Alemán elected, who stole 100 million dollars of aid after Hurricane Mitch, the deadliest hurricane in the 20th century. They got Pres. Bolaños elected, who kowtowed to the U.S. (the U.S. ambassador even campaigned with him). The Sandinistas had been labeled terrorists by the U.S., and Nicaraguans were afraid that if they didn't elect the U.S. hand-picked candidate, the U.S. would invade as they did in Iraq.
Finally, in 2006, Nicaraguans voted and were allowed the result of their elections, to put the Sandinistas back in the seat of power. What happened then (and continues to this day)? Education became free all the way through college, including medical or dental schools. Health care became accessible to all. Nineteen new hospitals have been built. COVID-19 is being handled in a better way than in the States… that is for sure. Clinics have opened all over the country, as well as opening homes for pregnant women at risk. There are more schools, educational resources and teachers. Businesses were finding Nicaragua a healthy place to set up corporations. Renewable energy was prioritized. Nicaragua was doing so well as a nation.
Then in 2018, the U.S. got a foothold again and help to fund uprisings, gangs to create chaos, and all the progress slowed to a crawl. Since the end of 2017, U.S. AID has funded opposition to the government with at least $31 million dollars. But after the initial unrest in 2018, things calmed again and the nation was slowly coming back. Then COVID hit.
I have said many times that Nicaragua is like a battered woman. She gets knocked down. She gets up and all seems to be going better to be knocked down again when she doesn’t expect it. And NONE of it is her fault, but instead the fault of the batterer who uses his power to dominate and get his own way.
What eventually happens to the woman? She sinks into depression and is ever cautious and fearful of the next blow. She loses hope, and will, though she is strong and a survivor.
Unlike the battered woman, Nicaragua cannot leave the Americas to find a safer shelter.
But like the batterer, the U.S. seldom changes its ways unless forced… and that is where the fight in me has to return. I am a child of that batterer and I need to force it to change its ways.
*Original of the leaked document in Spanish on La Primerisima:
Friday, July 31, 2020
Wednesday, July 22, 2020
Ten years ago, I decided that we really needed a health promoter to organize our public health outreach. I asked César, who is gifted in community organizing himself, to find us some candidates. He brought us Jessenia. She was mild spoken, unassuming, and told about her organizing experiences. She had limited public health organizing, but was willing to learn. To be honest, I wanted someone - anyone - and I wanted them working ASAP. Little did I know just how perfect she was for the job.
Jessenia would soak in information and ideas from anyone willing to teach her, but she was also wise to what might work and what might not. She loved having Professor Ronna Krozy come and Ronna loved working with Jessenia. Every time Ronna came she would always comment on how we had a gem in Jessenia, something that we already knew, but high praise from a public health nurse with her doctorate. In fact, everyone who worked with Jessenia was highly impressed by her knowledge, her caring, her wisdom and her kindness.
Jessenia was the face of the clinic in the community through our lay health promoters. If we had problems, she would gently but forcibly tell me about them. She would explain why my logical choices were absolutely ridiculous… but never in those words… though sometimes I wish she had… we would have saved ourselves some troubles.
Jessenia had backbone. She would stand up to a volunteer when they were not being culturally appropriate and not back down... a true gift… not to mention great responsibility. It is hard to do this, because we all know that volunteers give of their time and expertise. It was difficult for Jessenia who did not like conflict. She would frequently confer with me to see if her choice was right. It always was… always.
She took her calling to be the clinic’s health promoter seriously. I firmly believe that her job was as important as the doctors and other medical services; if not sometimes more important. Here are some of her accomplishments:
- Recruiting, organizing and supporting the 30 lay health promoters
- Creating and teaching three new mother's groups bi-weekly or monthly
- Leading teen girls' and boys' groups
- Starting and maintaining support for HIV positive patients
- Teaching weekly classes for our chronic care patients
- Leading volunteer doctors, nurses, nutritionists, dentists, lactation specialists, and respiratory therapist into homes of patients and bridging the cultural gap with sensitivity
- Creating and maintaining a home visit program for chronic care patients, new mothers and pregnant women, patients at risk, and asthmatic patients
- Organizing and teaching so many in Nueva Vida on umpteen million topics, it seems
- And connecting our clinic with the gay and transgender community in a respectful and dignified manner.
Jessenia was loved and respected by the clinic staff. She was heart and compassion through and through.
She was patient with me. She taught me how to listen to the staff as well as the community of Nueva Vida. I loved her... we all did and we will miss her… terribly.
With the Lobas she knew how to strike just the right balance between love and discipline. Jessenia was physically affectionate with them - so important in Nicaraguan culture and in particular with these girls - allowing them to hug her, braid her hair, even practice putting make-up on her. She taught me that it was okay to let these girls fully into our hearts. And yet she never let them walk all over her, she insisted on respect - but it was a mutual respect, and the girls recognized that.
|Jessenia, a gifted baker, gave Las Lobas an 8 week baking course in her home.|
We made it a custom to take the Lobas out of the neighborhood every other week - one week we would do something educational, and the following week we would take them on an outing. The first outing we went on was to see the movie Godzilla, and one of the girls came to us to tell us that another was carrying a knife. Jessenia helped to negotiate with the girl - who insisted the knife was for peeling mangoes - to leave the knife in the pharmacy with Danelia while we went to the movies. Anyone who's ever chaperoned a school field trip knows that our hearts were in our mouths each time we went out, but as long as Jessenia was with us, I knew we'd all make it back in one piece.
Jessenia was invaluable in helping me to negotiate the world of teenage girls in a culture other than the one in which I grew up, which made me a better leader for the Lobas, but also a better mom for my own two Nicaraguan teenage girls. I am forever indebted to her. Jessenia Castillo, ¡Presente! ¡Presente! ¡Presente!