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Section

Communities

A very loud place

Matagalpa

Matagalpa is a trading town and the bus station is where it all comes together. It is an equalising sort of place, where everyone is on common ground, for a moment anyway. It is a marketplace of chickens, radios, tortillas, rope, soft drinks, cakes, newspapers and if you have time, even stirrups. Farmers just in from the mountains with their sacks of corn and coffee beans; working boys with homebuilt shoeshine-boxes giving businessmen in suits a shine; market women in their big aprons with baskets full of potatoes and tomatoes. Taxi drivers compete for arriving bus passengers. Hawkers wait for permission from the drivers to board leaving busses to save souls, collect for AIDS victims and drug rehabilitation, sell bubble gum, miracle potions and vitamins, ask for money to cover hospital or burial costs for loved ones. One woman after the other walks by, filling the
air with their cries, announcing what you really do need today. This is a place of exchange.

Story of the ten tombs

Pancasán

Ten tombstones on the top of a mountain, surrounded by banana trees and coffee plants. The quietness is disturbed by an occasion-al group of cattle wandering through. Pancasán is very close to the wild country, and its people still think of it as wilderness and of themselves as pioneers. Many here still take justice into their own hands, and Pancasán’s history is therefore full of outlaws, rebels and revolutionaries seeking holes to hide in, friends to sustain them, and recruits for their causes. This is a monument in memory of ten Sandinista guerilla fighters from the area. They were killed in one of the massacres that have marked the lives of many families of the region during a century of wars. One of the graves belongs to Antonio Pérez Zamora’s father. The only memory Antonio has of his father is a cattle iron for branding the cows.

 

Bean harvest

Esquipullas

During harvest, beans are bundled together by their stalks in their pods. They get to hang on the corn stalks. One plant provides a hook for the other one to dry on. Together, the beans
and the corn dry out and wait to be stored for the winter. This way you save on barn building and carrying, but you put a lot
of trust in God and His weather. Hopefully no rain will come in these days. Rain, sun and plagues permitting, an acre of corn and half an acre of beans will feed a family through the dry season and into the next harvest. But nature really has to cooperate, and the farmer depends on this.

The name of the game is coffee

La Dalia is a place of large coffee haciendas, of owners’ mansions, private security forces and wheeler-dealer export brokers. Also of workers’ barracks and small homesteads where harvest work for the big bosses is the main source of income. It is a green place, of cool mountains, icy streams and creeks, heavy fog in the morning. A place of wealth and therefore a place of conflict and violence. Workers build barricades to protest lay-offs. Cooperatives fiercely defend properties that they think are rightfully theirs, paid for in lives and years of service in the name of the revolution. Bosses equally fiercely reject the land reform of the revolutionary years, defending plantations that their grandfathers carved from the wilderness, won by force of arms and will from the “indolent” natives whose descendents now work their land as labourers.

Cattlemen

Terrabona is a dry, hard country. It is made for cattle ranching for meat, but with nobody investing in cattle, the source of income in the past few years has been cutting the sparse bush for firewood. Every day some more of the county’s future is trucked away to feed the capital’s kitchen fires. These people are dirt farmers by bad luck, not by choice. They dream not of harves-ting green fields but of days on horseback, driving fat steers to slaughter.

 

 

 

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