The Nicaragua Photo/Testimony Project
Paul Dix and Pam Fitzpatrick
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The letter below is one of a series written by Pam Fitzpatrick and Paul Dix during multiple journeys they took to Nicaragua between 2002 and 2010 to locate people who were the subjects of photos taken by Paul in the 1980s (during the U.S.-sponsored Contra War). Pam and Paul's goal was to document and share with the people of the U.S.—through photographs and testimonies in Nicaraguans' own voices—the horrific long-term effects of the Contra War and ongoing U.S. international policy on the lives of ordinary Nicaraguans.  To see a list of all of the letters and their topics, visit the Letters page.  To learn more about the Nicaragua Photo/Testimony Project, see About the Book and About the Authors.

In 2011 Pam and Paul published a beautiful 220-page book of photographs and testimonies, NICARAGUA: Surviving the Legacy of U.S. Policy. Order it here!

January 28, 2003    Vacation at Ometepe (in Lake Nicaragua), Finca Magdalena Coffee Cooperative

Note: To see some of Paul's photos taken for the Photo/Testimony project, visit the Photos and Stories page.

Hello Friends,

We, too, will be listening to the State of the Union address tonight.  The general analysis here is that Bush will do war on Iraq no matter what, it's just a matter of time. Sure hope this analysis is wrong!

After sending our last report (Bocana de Paiwas) I commented to Paul that I thought I might be sugar coating our reports, mostly sending reports that had a kernel of hope. That I wasn't really relaying the depth of the pain. But, in reality, people do still have hope, they just don't have a clear program of change to embrace. It's more of an abstract "hope". The human spirit IS amazing.

At last we took some time off!!  Courtney, my daughter, came January 9th, what a treat!!! She continues to amaze me.

I do want to report on one piece of our vacation. We went to the island of Ometepe (in Lake Nicaragua) and for three nights stayed at the base of the Maderas volcano on a coffee cooperative.  Beautiful setting, warm fun cooperative members, and lots of monkeys!  One day we climbed the volcano, or actually, Paul and Courtney climbed the volcano. I went half way and wisely decided my back wouldn't handle the slippery mud. I had a delightful stroll back down and knew I'd made the right decision when Paul and Courtney limped in at dusk. They enjoyed....I enjoyed!

The coffee cooperative, Finca Magdalena, was formed in 1980, currently has 20 members (5 are women), and has wisely diversified by offering food and sleeping quarters to visitors.  Getting there requires a rough bus ride of an hour and a half (bus isn't frequent and most people seem to take the 4 am bus) and then a hike of about a kilometer. I was constantly amazed by the line of people that would come walking up the trail about 6 am, fresh off the bus, and all of them significantly younger than Paul and I!

Staying at the Finca was a treat.  We thoroughly enjoyed the coop members as well as they other guests. What a fine place to unwind!  Plus we saw lots of howler monkeys...and I saw a white faced capuchin (during my most pleasant stroll down the volcano).

And here's the tidbit of economic info.  The coop nearly lost their land after the 1990 elections. With the changes in government, and the privatization of the banks, the loans were called in at a faster rate.  The coop could not meet these increased payments and were about to fold when a young hiker from the US chose to visit Finca Magdalena. While there he learned of their plight and offered to pay off the loan, requesting that the coop pay him back as they could!  Nice story, eh? They have repaid this man.

They sell most of their coffee (organic, shade grown) through their sister city, Bainbridge Island, Washington, but production has increased and they are looking for new markets.

Besides vacationing, our other news is that we've decided to extend our time here. We were due back to the U.S. February 7th, but now we're going to stay until early April. We know we'll never feel the project is completed, but with 2 more months we'll be closer!!

No more vacations for Paul!  He's been struggling with another cold, he's winning for sure, but it's a slow process.

We plan to head to Somotillo in northern Nicaragua 5am Thursday morning.  We won't be away from email connections for long and we do love hearing from anyone who has the time and inclination!

Thinking of each of you! 


Pam and Paul