We spent our last days back in Managua getting a tour of the main office of El Porvenir, meeting the dedicated staff, getting a taxi tour of the central market, and the highly guarded, decorated and chain-linked waterfront. We climbed the semi-active Volcan Masaya, and ended the experience being taken to dinner by Rob Bell, the director of the El Porvenir office.
Taking our last evening walk, we were urged to be in before dark, not to wear jewelry, cameras or purses, and to watch our backs. Graffiti covered every space, but only Sandanista graffiti. The major area of employment could be security guards from the numbers of men we saw in uniforms with big guns, behind chain-link fences. In front of the baseball stadium stood a huge statue of the Sandanista hero Gen. Augusto Sandino. Across the street was a retrospective of the Sandanista Party behind the ubiquitous chain-link fence. Since we were protected by the gun-carrying guard, I took out my camera to record this history and Bob. While he was flashing a few of me with poet Ruben Dario and Gen Augusto Sandino, a guard came up to him from behind, sticking two fingers into his neck. Bob, startled, turned, ready to fight. “What’re you doing?”
“You wanna keep your camera? And your life? Then put that away before you leave this exhibit.” (In Spanish)
“Por Supuesto!” Bob agreed quickly. “Muchisimas gracias!” we thanked him for the warning and safely returned to the hotel, watching our backs.
The Sandanista retrospective was an impressive mix of history, poetry, sculpture and graffiti recording a fight for freedom through the years. But what has happened? Crime is rampant. So many people in the country live without water and toilets. The socialist ideal of a “system in which the means of production and distribution are controlled by the people and operated according to equity and fairness” has deteriorated to the point of the second-time president Daniel Ortega, owning one of the largest hotels (The Seminole Hotel) and casinos in town. A socialist turned capitalist? That money certainly isn’t going to the people that need it most.
Well, life is never fair, but let’s keep fighting to make it so. To end on a positive note, thanks to Water for People; and the non-profit, El Porvenir, on it’s 20th anniversary, should be tremendously honored for having completed 600 projects and helped over 70,000 people in Nicaragua. Both non-profits have pages on Facebook. Become a fan and get involved.