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!

November 13, 2004    Boaco, Action Against CAFTA Needed

Including stories about or testimonies from: Doralisa (fictional name).  

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.

Boaco -- As the U.S. political scene gallops to the right, the southern countries seem to be pulling to the left - Brazil, Uruguay, and now Nicaragua's municipal elections of Sunday November 7th.

Paul and I were in the small, conservative, hill-top town of Boaco during the elections, visiting one of our favorite people, Doralisa (fictional name at her request).  Doralisa now lives in one of the poorer communities at the base of the more economically secure uphill center of town.

When we met with her at 5:30 am Monday morning, after the Sunday elections, she said she'd barely slept a wink. To the surprise of many the Sandinista Party won the Boaco elections and Doralisa said people in her community were celebrating all night - people running up and down the streets, fire crackers, music - a weight lifted, a glimmer of hope.
Paul on steps, Boaco   
Paul on steps, "uptown" Boaco looking "downtown"

Paul and I had rented a room "uphill" Sunday night, an area full of conservative PLC supporters and VERY quiet during the vote count. Nothing to celebrate from their perspective.

Nationally the Sandinista Party took at least 90 of the 152 municipalities, a truly amazing win. And this is in spite of the fact that many do still fear the U.S. will again attack if the Sandinista party wins national control again.  Doralisa indicated this is a common fear that is openly played on by the conservative PLC party.

Doralisa, 45, still single, still beautiful, sleep or no sleep, was her usual high energy, though shy, self.  We caught a 6 am bus, traveled an hour, and then walked an hour through tropical forests, fields, bogs, up, down and around hills to her mother's house.

It is here that 26-year-old Doralisa and her family hid as the contra shot into the house in 1985 - a single bullet killing her two little nieces as they hugged on the floor, other bullets killing 2 sisters, a brother, and her father. Nineteen years later, Doralisa's voice still cracks, her eyes still water up, as she retells the story of the early morning attack.  She points to the places where the bodies fell, to the bullet holes in every door and wall. Such horror in an absolutely gorgeous setting.

It is here that Doralisa's 80-year-old mother has continued to live, cooking at the same open fire stove, light streaking into the kitchen through the bullet holes of 1985.

The family had owned and farmed this land for generations and in the early 1980s joined with others in the area to form a cooperative.  As a cooperative they became a prime contra target.

After the trauma of the contra slaughter they left their farm and were afraid to return during the war years. Doralisa still gets frightened when she visits her mother overnight.

But most of the family has returned. Brothers and cousins dot the hills, all working the land. If they continue having local markets for their beans, coffee, and honey they'll be fine. At least they will be able to eat and send their children to school.

But many others aren't doing as well. Nicaragua, considered the "bread basket" of Central America, has a malnutrition rate of 33% (UN figure) and is still experiencing a bean crisis.  The drought was only one part of the cause of this crisis.

According to a recent LaPrensa article, Nicaragua produced 718,000 hundred-pound bags of beans last year, and by October 2004 795,000 bags had been exported...more than produced!  With the crop failure AND the exportation of much of their harvest and reserves, prices have skyrocketed. While a pound of red beans (their favorite) cost 5 1/2 Cordobas when we were here in 2003, they were 8 1/2 when we arrived three weeks ago, and then rose to 16 C.  Remember that many workers only earn 16 C (one U.S. dollar) to 25 C a day!  Hunger for the poor majority is a very real result of prioritizing "Free Trade" over "Fair Trade" or national "Food Security".

The next harvest will start coming into the markets soon, but many of the poorest, most malnourished, will be forced to do without one of their essential foods until the price drops significantly.

It's very likely these food scarcities will increase if CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement) passes in the U.S. congress.  According to Carlos Pacheco of the Center for International Studies the food crises will be much worse than the coffee crisis Nicaragua has been experiencing for the last few years.

With CAFTA the U.S. will have total access to Nicaragua's agricultural markets within 10 years and pay zero tariffs. That means, for example, highly subsidized ADM (Archer Daniels Midland) will be able to sell its corn in Nicaragua for less than it costs a Nicaraguan farmer to produce it.

On the Nicaraguan side of the agreement it lets Nicaragua sell its industrial products in the U.S. This is a cruel joke. Nicaragua is an agricultural country, not an industrial country.

Second, the agreement gives Nicaragua a peanut quota. Since only 120 Nicaraguan farmers produce peanuts in only two areas of Nicaragua and only 2 companies warehouse, process and store peanuts for export and since peanuts are NOT a labor intensive crop this "gift" will again not increase wealth or jobs in Nicaragua.

And third, the agreement gives Nicaragua a small sugar quota, a quota that.ends up being 4.4% of Nicaragua's national sugar production. Again, this.will not increase wealth or jobs in Nicaragua.

The well subsidized, huge multinational U.S. agribusiness corporations could.easily destroy Nicaragua's agricultural industry.  Consider corn.  U.S. agribusiness corporations have nearly 80% of their corn production costs.covered by your tax dollars. Small, non-subsidized U.S. farmers were destroyed by these corporations and so will small farmers in Nicaragua. Yes, other.countries do subsidize farmers, but the U.S. subsidies are much more weighted.toward the corporate farms, not the small, struggling family farm. Why should subsidizing corporate profits take priority over any country's

These are just a few examples of how CAFTA will devastate the well-being of the poor majority. Add to this the required privatization of everything from energy to water, the patents on micro-organisms and plants, the drastic reduction of social services.

Please contact your senators and representatives and urge them to vote NO on CAFTA.

It's on the fast track which means there can be no changes, just a vote up or down.  Tell them to vote it down and then rewrite it as a Fair Trade agreement.

For more information about CAFTA and sample letters and talking points, go to the following Web sites:
Citizens Trade Campaign
American Friends Service Committee
• Religious Task Force on Central America and Mexico (sample letter to Congress)

Email your member of Congress directly from the Public Citizen Global Trade Watch website. A sample message is provided.

House of Representatives:

The Honorable ________
House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515


The Honorable ________
Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Capitol Switchboard
House and Senate: (202) 224-3121

Call your member of Congress tollfree at: 1-800-839-5276

Donald Rumsfeld is in Nicaragua this weekend, evidently to discuss matters of terrorism. There is general concern that public demonstrations in opposition to CAFTA will be treated as acts of terrorism.

And in today's paper we see that Dan Fisk,  deputy secretary of State for Central America, is coming to Nicaragua next week to meet with the PLC, the main conservative party of Nicaragua. You can be assured the U.S. government will do whatever they feel is necessary to keep the Sandinistas from winning the 2006 presidential election.

For now Doralisa and her family have hope. They can pay for their children to go to school (a school not built by the government but by a Spanish NGO), they have food, they feel optimistic.  They survived the contra but they also need to survive CAFTA!

Tomorrow we're off to Somotillo, one of the hottest areas in Nicaragua, looking forward to finding Marta or her family.

Thanks again for your interest!  Feel free to write us at and do please refer others to our web page where we have a bit of history of our project and sometimes (non-professional) photos to accompany the newsletters. It IS great to be back in Nicaragua!

In appreciation!

Pam and Paul