The Nicaragua Photo/Testimony Project
Paul Dix and Pam Fitzpatrick
Home  |  About the Book  |  About the Authors  |  Letters from Nicaragua   |  Reviews & Testimonials   |  Contact
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 8, 2002    Robledal, Esteli, Via Esperanza

Including stories about or testimonies from: Marcos, Iliana, Mauricio.

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

Hello friends...

I’ll try this again, just typed it out and the system crashed, so parden me if there are a ton of I`m really rushing....rats!

ANYWAY..frightening news from the U.S. continues. Hope this mad rush to war can be stopped!

If any of you are inclined to try to reach us, use the address...rather than the reply button which reaches our most wonder email guru, Max. Thanks!!!

So much to report! Amazing connections! Amazing visits! For this report we’ll limit our story to one visit outside Esteli.


Robledal--With a 4:45 am rising time we’re able to catch the 6 am bus to Robledal - a small rural gathering of about 15 scattered houses that was a cooperative in the 80s, but today is housing for these same people who work for the private farm owner.  This tiny community had 4 civilian fathers killed by the contra at 10 am one morning, just prior to the February 25, 1990 elections. Paul was at the funeral in Esteli and then up at the community afterwards.

The bus pulled in at 6:15 - already standing room only and somehow more buckets, bags, baskets, live chickens and people (and us!) squeezed on for a sloooooow, curvy, bumpy, heaving hour ride up hill.

We’re the only ones that get off at the Robledal crossing. Now it’s just us, one house within view. Still early, light mist, tiny birds, hills, open fields, green, quiet. How beautiful! We start the 45 minute walk to Robledal. There’s not really a cluster of houses, just scattered, each alone. We come to one house and call in from the distance. No one responds. This pattern is repeated at each house. We "knock" from a distance. After a while someone usually appears, hesitantly, with reservation. We slowly weave through our history and project and they slowly warm up, until we pull out the pictures. Then there’s smiles, pointing, giggles. They are pleased to have the photos, even though it was of a sad event.  Each person reports that they remember the attack like it was yesterday.

To lose so many fathers in one small community!

We soon learn that the community is "pure" Galeano - all are related in some way.  Handsome 16-year-old Marcos stands on the trail with his horse talking with us for at least half an hour. Though only 5 when his father was murdered that morning at 10 am, he too remembers the attack like it was yesterday. Afterwards his family had to be divided and he went to live with his grandparents in Esteli.  Now he’s trying to learn English. He looks at us with pleading eyes and says "there’s no work for him here".  He wants to get to the U.S., somehow, and find work.  This "no hay trabajo" is repeated with each and every person we meet, just see it as a screen that overlays every person we speak with.

We continue through fields, by ponds, up hills, of and off the tiny trails from family to family, each meeting rich and each family struggling. One woman breaking into a huge grin when she recognizes her son after looking at the picture for at least 2 minutes!

We learn that the name of the main woman we are searching for is Iliana Galeano (of course) and she now lives in Esteli in the community of VIA ESPERANZA.

We walk 45 minutes back to the main road and wait for the bus. Up comes a tiny woman carrying a huge bucket filled with cheese, rice, eggs, as well as a bag of beans and a bag of squash.  Her pre-school-aged son trails behind carrying two live chickens.  They, too, are Galeanos and she already knows all about our project even though we hadn’t spoken during our journey through the community. She says she can help us meet up with Iliana today!

The bus pulls up. Not as full!  We load our new friend’s food onto the bus, yikes, how does she carry all this herself? It’s another bumpy windy ride to Esteli but this time we are each partially seated. NICE!

We get off in Esteli with our new friend, rush with the food to a store/bus stop. Leave food and son there and rush 6 blocks to another bus stop where Iliana is to appear for a 1:30 bus.  Our friend has to rush back to catch her bus and we wait. Sure enough Iliana does appear and we have maybe two minutes to chat and show pictures before her bus to Quinta comes. Yes, she does want to meet with us, but during the week when she’s in Esteli.  Success!!

What an amazing day. We make it back to our "family" (home stay with the school) and collapse.

Iliana now works in a cigar factory in Esteli, gone from home 6 am to about 6:30 pm.  Long days.  Not home during the daylight hours. We’re warned by everyone to very careful in VIA ESPERANZA...and to definitely not be there at night. With a Nicaraguan male friend we take a taxi one night and we find the house! We have the cab wait while we talk with Iliana's family briefly, she’s still at work.  No luck this day but we’re closer!

Each community visit is amazingly powerful. Rich and sad. And always "no hay trabajo".  Mauricio, a young man you’ll enjoy meeting later, who lost his father and brother when the contra attacked their house late one night, said some days there’s no food and he has to go hunting for work with an empty stomach. He remembers when there was war but then there was food, free school and medicine. Now there’s no war, the U.S. is friendly to Nicaragua, but the people have to pay for school and the only medicine is in the private clinic. Gentle, handsome, bright, quiet Mauricio...midnight running through the woods barefoot to escape the contra...his father horribly tortured and killed, his younger brother killed as he too tried to escape to the woods.

My Spanish teacher informed me that the women that do the housekeeping and childcare (usually 6 am to 6 pm...6 days a week) in Esteli are usually paid 300 Cordobas ....some MAYBE as high as 500 Cordobas a month....that’s $21 to $35 a month. Blanca does such work....6 days....2 young children. She had to take her 6 year old out of school because she couldn’t afford the notebooks.  Where’s our generosity now?  Why could we afford weapons then...but not schooling and medicine now?  I know that’s your question, too!

We were in Esteli area for 2 weeks, then back to Managua for a few days where Paul had some more amazing finds. Now we’re in Esteli again, heading to Achuapa (west) and the community of Lagartilla. Some of you who saw our Lyman Fund grant request might remember Florentina. Her quote is something along the lines of "the contra killed my husband and daughter, that was a personal loss...but when the U.S. interfered in our 1990 elections they took my people’s entire dream."  And that is a reality we see here each and every minute of each and every day.

Thanks for traveling with us. You are the part of the U.S. that can give the world hope. And do we think of you!  Thank you! Do know that we are well and healthy and enjoying. Thanks for helping us to be here. 

With love,

 Pam and Paul