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!

May 1, 2005    Managua, Los Laureles, La Esperanza

Including stories about: bus fare riots, Lucila Incer Tellez, Wilfredo Miranda Gomez.

Note: The photos in this letter are Pam's casual digital photos. To see some of Paul's professional photos taken for the Photo/Testimony project, visit the Photos and Stories page.

Happy International Workers' Day!

Here in Nicaragua we've just had a week of intense chaos, mainly in Managua but also in some of the other larger towns, centered on the proposed increase in bus fares. Yes, bus cooperatives do need to increase their income to cover the increased cost of gas. After an unsuccessful meeting with the government the bus cooperatives illegally raised the bus fares.

But students maintain that the workers in Nicaragua cannot afford to pay more for transportation; that the increased cost should be covered by a government subsidy. One might maintain that if the government can sell profitable government businesses to their private sector friends and manage to make no profit for the government, if the government can cover failed high interest risky bonds of the economically secure, that the government could also provide a subsidy for the public transportation system that serves the poorest segments of the population.  

It did seem strange that the students were attacking the bus drivers and police; segments of the population here in Nicaragua that are generally on the same side.  It was a week of exploding mortars (more like large, dangerous firecrackers than war time mortars), tear gas, burned buses and trucks, burning tires, closed streets, transportation stoppages, and closed schools.  And the right wing paper repeatedly pointed out that if the Sandinistas win the election of 2006, Nicaragua will see more of this; that it will be all out war again, like in the 1980s.  Since the U.S. embassy has been very open and clear that it will do whatever is necessary to keep the Sandinistas out of power we couldn't help but wonder if the student groups hadn't been infiltrated as has been suggested here in the media.

A three month subsidy was finally offered and buses are again running. We were happy to be in the north of the country and to have avoided most of the "action." During the last two weeks we traveled to Ocotal, Jalapa, Quilali, Panali, Praderas, Monterrey and Jinotega, a very rich and successful week.

In this letter I'd like to introduce two people to you from our earlier trip to the Nueva Guinea area. We'll give you the opportunity to help one of them toward the end of our letter.

On June 3, 1985 26-year-old Lucila Incer Tellez, the mother of a 4-year-old son and a one and a half-year-old  daughter, was preparing to travel the approximately 8 miles from her home in Los Laureles, Nueva Guinea to Jacinto Vaca where she taught elementary school from 12:30 to 5 pm.  This particular morning she hitched a ride on a tractor from a nearby cooperative that was returning from carrying bananas and cacao to the market in Nueva Guinea.

They hadn't gone more than 2 miles when the tractor was attacked by a group of contra. The five militia men on board jumped down to defend the 13 civilians, but were immediately killed by heavy gun fire. By the end of the attack, 7 had been killed and five wounded. Two were kidnapped, including the young father that was returning from the Los Laureles medical clinic with his sick 6- or 7-month-old infant.

Lucila was shot with a bullet from a FAL that entered from the outside of her right knee and, on it's exit, destroyed the knee as well as 6 inches of flesh and bone above and 6 inches below.
Lucila, now 46, prepares chicken soup. At 26, she became permanently disabled after being shot in the knee by a contra bullet. She was also forced to give up a baby daughter she could no longer care for.
After the fighting stopped Lucila had to wait  an hour while others searched for a vehicle to take her to the hospital. She describes hearing a steady shush shush shush sound as the blood squirted out her leg. Then she describes incredible thirst, and remembers begging people to bring her water from the river.

She was taken to the hospital in Nueva Guinea, then Juigalpa, and finally a hospital in Managua.  

Lucila spent the majority of the next two years in the hospital trying to keep her leg.  They took bone from both hips, two parts of her left leg and one part of her right leg to piece together a some what working right leg. With no knee she cannot bend the right leg, but, with a brace, she can walk short distances without too much pain.

How could she care for her one-year-old daughter, Zureta?   The Godmother took Zureta to Chinandega and raised her as her own child.

Lucila's father Favio.
Lucila still lives in Los Laureles, in the same house, with her amazingly strong and clear thinking 80-year-old father and one of her three children.  Because she did work as a teacher for five years she does receive a payment of 436 cordobas (about $26) a month based on full and permanent disability.  To receive this payment she has to travel to Nueva Guinea each month, spend nearly the entire day in travel and lines, and pay 38 cordobas for transportation.

They live on a very large "lot" where her father has planted coconut and fruit trees and they have plenty of chickens; three more family members live in the same community, wander in and out of the house,  and I'm sure help out significantly.

They seem to be doing reasonably well.  When Lucila was about 14-years-old her mother died in childbirth. Her father, Favio, in addition to being heartbroken, was left with a newborn and a handful of young children to raise on his own. He succeeded; he found the strength to move forward.  With the help of CARE he moved his family from the Boaco area to Los Laureles where he had heard the land was productive, lived in this small newly formed community where he knew he could get some help from neighbors and worked to better his life. He has a beautiful spirit.

They honored us with a delicious chicken soup dinner.

In another part of Nueva Guinea, La Esperanza, on January 17th, 1986 at about 6:30 in the evening a group of contra surrounded the house of 8-year-old Wilfredo Miranda Gomez and shot into the house. Wilfredo, slightly wounded in the head, crawled out a window and hid behind a tree, staying absolutely still so the contra would not see him. When the contra left, his mother was gravely wounded, his 17-year-old brother, a Sandinista soldier at home for a short visit, was dead, and another brother was seriously wounded in his right arm. Wilfredo tried to stop his mother's bleeding but by the time help came at around 9 pm, she was dead.

Some of you might remember Wilfredo from a photo Paul took of him at his mother's funeral, leaning on a cross, looking at the camera. This photo was on the cover of a little booklet Witness for Peace produced in the 1980s.

Wilfredo's father took the sadly common route of drowning his sorrow in alcohol and essentially deserted his children until he died years later. Wilfredo's oldest sister, actually still a child herself, raised the other children.
Wilfredo, now 26,  being photographed by Paul at the restaurant where he works in Managua. He'd like to finish high school and be able to go to college.

Later another brother who was in the Sandinista military was killed, and before the family healed from that loss another brother was killed, and again, before they healed, a third brother was killed.  Four brothers and a mother killed during the war. It's interesting to note that his oldest brother was in prison in Managua for 7 years during the 1980s for being part of Somoza's National Guard. He was in a Sandinsta prison while his family was being killed by the contra.

Wilfredo joined the army in the 1990s and was trained as a de-miner. During this time he was also able to continue his schooling.  Then after leaving the army he worked in Costa Rica as a cook, saving some money for his return to Nicaragua. He prefers living in Nicaragua.

He's now 26 and has one year of high school left and would like to attend the university. Paul and I met with him at a restaurant in Tipitapa, an area of Managua, where he works as a waiter.  He's bright, strong and motivated.  He maintains that there is always hope for a better life.  He even made us feel hopeful!

Generally we urge people to make donations to Nicaraguan organizations that are helping their communities, rather than donations to individuals. But if anyone would like to help Wilfredo it does seem it would be nice for this young man to finally receive some help. Plus it would be easy to stay in contact with him, one of the problems we've run into in other parts of the country.

He could start a program to complete high school this July, and then start college in February, the beginning of the Nicaraguan school year.  He would, of course, continue working as a waiter during this time.

We figure that if two people could commit to sending $30 a month (Western Union takes a chunk) for at least a year and a half Wilfredo could complete high school and at the very least get started in college. In the best of all possible worlds two people would commit to four years to enable him to complete high school and college, but even getting started would be a huge help.

If you would like to help with this please contact us right away so we can help set up the procedure before we leave the country (around the third week of May).  Thanks for considering this gift!

Thanks again for traveling with us. And a million thanks for all your calls to the Senate and the House on CAFTA!  We always enjoy hearing from people at

Tomorrow we fly to Bluefields!

In appreciation,

Pam Fitzpatrick and Paul Dix