By Magda Lanuza
Magda Lanuza is an analyst from Esteli, Nicaragua, who writes on different topics. This article is based on a visit to San José de las Mulas in June of 2019.[Editor’s note: Last week we reported that the National Assembly, on Feb. 18, declared San José de las Mulas, located in the municipality of Matiguás, Department of Matagalpa, a historic site. Here is one story about what is behind that declaration.]
Mario Castill Blandón and his wife Julia Nelly Siles, remember every day of the before, during and after of February 27, 1983, in their small hamlet. This couple shows their age, the passing of the years in country people who live off daily hard work, with a lot of sweat, long days in the sun and long distances to walk. The youngest of their 12 children is now 21 years old. Don Mario says that his little house is still where it was during the hard years of the war, a little below the school. Back then there was no electricity, the road was dirt and the poverty was overwhelming. But the Contra were coming from Honduras into the nearby mountains. The memories are still vivid among the families in San José de las Mulas, and they told me the story of how they lived through the massacre:
The little wooden school was in the most strategic place in the community. It had been built at the end of the 70’s by some parents. Already in 1982, people heard that the Contras were in the mountains nearby and the Army had set up a camp in the region. The youngsters [members of the Sandinista Youth] had arrived three weeks earlier, visited the houses in the community and exchanged some of their rations for cigarettes, fresh cheese or eggs because they were bored with canned food. They were cheerful, some were very young and they arrived with no idea of the cruelties of war. The hardest work they had done was walking, and for days, digging a big trench in an L shape at the edge of the school for their shelter.
The sudden loud detonations of the machine guns and bombs caught them asleep at midnight on February 27. Doña Julia tells how they left their little wooden house and went out into the forest, believing that they would never wake up again and could only think of the poor young fighters. They say that the attack was non-stop, for hours and hours, until the sun rose and the cannon-fire stopped. At about 9:00 a.m., some families returned to their homes and found the courage to go up to the school. What they saw there, they could never have imagined and it will never be erased from their memory. There was blood everywhere; there was no school, only ruins; the trees were splintered; bodies were everywhere in the trenches, some piled up and it already smelled like death. Don Mario related how they found a boy lost in the mountains, dazed, full of blood, in total desolation, and they hid him from house to house, until he was safe in Matagalpa. It took days for the Nicaraguan Army to get up there and recover the bodies that the community had buried and cared for. Nobody talked about anything else; nobody ate. There was only crying. They did not sleep in their little houses; every noise caused a jump, and they only hoped that those noises were from the Army.
In February 1983, I was a third-year student at the Mexico Experimental Institute in Managua. It was a large high school full of students of all ages, some seemed too old to be in high school, but that was the result of the liberation war of 1979. Every Monday and Friday we were trained on the basketball court; sometimes for half an hour. We sang the national anthem, listened to instructions from teachers, then words from the Sandinista Youth and ended with the FSLN anthem. One of those days, we said goodbye on that field to five young men who were leaving on a volunteer brigade to defend the homeland. It was an unusual day, but you could feel the pride of seeing the courage of those young men who were leaving for war and leaving everything behind to the cry of “Free Homeland or Death!”
A few weeks later, the fateful news reached the Institute. The boys had been killed in a brutal attack by the Contras. We spent days and days waiting at school; they told us tomorrow and then the next day. They were sad and cloudy days; we had almost no classes, until one day three coffins arrived at our school. There was a ceremony with all the students, silence, songs, speeches and the honor guard with the mothers there. My photo is in the newspaper Barricada on March 3, 1983, with the other students, part of the honor guard.
In June 2019 I arrived at San José de las Mulas, in Matiguas, Matagalpa. We climbed up to school twice rebuilt since 1983. More than 40 children were playing outside and there, in an important part of the courtyard, was the finished monument to the 23 young men who were killed. The teachers are less than 30 years old, but they know the history of the site very well. I arrived in silence, greeted each of the teachers; there was Don Mario’s son. I could not take it anymore, and I burst into tears in front of everyone, I couldn’t stand up. I don’t remember a single name, I didn’t know anyone, nor was I very close to any of those boys, but it still hurts deeply. The monument was just inaugurated in February 2020, the effort led by some mothers who are still alive and climb up with canes every year. Don Mario said that Marvin Vallecillo, one of the survivors, was in charge of the monument and that they enjoyed having him back with them. In these communities, there is still much to mourn. Nicaragua has not had time to mourn the losses or collect so many tears. That is why, after 38 years, the National Assembly has declared San José de las Mulas a historic site. It was time because the history of this courageous people cannot be erased and it must be a source of inspiration for the dreams of a better world in peace.
By Nan McCurdy
Vaccination Program Begins
The Health Ministry will begin the voluntary vaccination program against COVID-19 for people with high vulnerability on March 2. Those prioritized are people on dialysis, those with cancer and heart problems. The program will begin with the Sputnik-V vaccine received from the Russian Federation. (Radio La Primerisima, 1 March 2021)
Donation of Vaccines Arrives from India
200,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines donated by the Government of India will be arriving March 6 according to Vice President Rosario Murillo. The vaccination program will begin with this donation and the 135,000 doses from Russia that arrived Feb. 24.
The Vice President said that there are signed agreements to purchase a large quantity of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines. (Radio La Primerisima, 26 February 2021)
3.5% Economic Growth Predicted
National Policy Adviser Paul Oquist said that the decisions taken by the government during the last twelve months have allowed the country to return to the path of economic growth. He cited the prediction by the Economist Intelligence Unit of the UK that Nicaragua’s GDP will grow at a rate of 3.5% in 2021. He said, “This has been achieved thanks to the policy of not closing down the economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.” He explained further that after economic losses due to the failed coup attempt in 2018, the country had begun to grow again in October of 2019 but then was hit by the pandemic in 2020. But, since December of last year, he said, growth has resumed along with increased formal sector employment. (Informe Pastrán, 2 March 2021)
New Aquatic Park in Sébaco
With a US$290,000 investment, a new children’s aquatic park will be inaugurated on Feb. 27 in Sébaco, Matagalpa. This project consists of two swimming pools, with water slides, in addition to two playgrounds, a mobile aquatic game, recreation area, kiosks and green areas. On opening day, families will be able to enjoy a fair, cultural activities, piñatas, and fireworks. See photos: https://radiolaprimerisima.com/noticias-generales/destacado/anuncian-inauguracion-de-parque-acuatico-en-sebaco/
(Radio La Primerisima, 25 February 2021)
CABEI Loans US$143 Million to Nicaragua
On Feb. 19 the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) and the Republic of Nicaragua signed a contract for the National Sustainable Electrification and Renewable Energy Program (PNESER) for US$143 million. According to CABEI’s website, this investment will contribute to improving the quality of life of families, the development of new productive activities, job creation and poverty reduction. (Radio La Primerisima, 23 February 2021)
Minimum Wage Increase Averages 3%
The National Minimum Wage Commission agreed on a 3% increase for workers of the different economic sectors and 1% for the tourism industry. Labor Minister Alba Luz Torres said this raise will go into effect March 1 and will be applied during 2021. Luis Barbosa, representative of the Central Sandinista de Trabajadores and Leonardo Torres, president of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (CONIMIPYME) said that the adjustment of the new minimum wage was decided unanimously, taking into account the economic reality of the country. To see the table of increases: https://radiolaprimerisima.com/noticias-generales/generales/aprueban-nuevo-salario-minimo/ (Radio La Primerisima, 25 February 2021)
Increase in Remittances
On March 1, the Central Bank published the January statistics on remittances from abroad which totaled US$156.1 million, an increase of 12.1% over the same month last year (US$139.2 million). The main sources of remittances were the US with 60.3%, followed by Spain – 16.1%, Costa Rica – 13.7%, Panama – 3.4% and Canada – 1.3%. (Radio La Primerisima, 1 March 2021)
Transformation of Cacao Strengthens Economy
The Ministry of Family Economy held the II National Chocolate Festival, under the slogan “Nicaragua, sweetening with love,” where 45 cooperatives and individual producers that transform cocoa were present. This festival was held at the National Fair Grounds on Feb. 27 and 28. Producers offered white and dark chocolate products, cocoa paste, nutritional bars, cocoa granola, cereals, poly-cereals, liquors and cocoa wine. Recognition was given to those who presented the most innovative products, taking into account differentiating characteristics in primary processing, transformation, commercialization, innovation and originality. Winners produced chocolate tamales, white chocolate and cocoa cream liqueur. (Radio La Primerisima, 1 March 2021)