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!

October 18, 2002    Managua, Nicaraguan Economy

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

Dear friends!

We thought we´d send a short hello to you on our eve of leaving Managua for Esteli.  If you are inspired to send us a note please send it to the address...rather than the reply button which will send the message to my good friend Max who has been so kind to send you this message!!!

We hope you are all well and enjoying the fall...we're enjoying summer!

Paul and I have had a rich first week in Nicaragua - and with the generous help of our Managua hosts, Tom and Jenny (AFSC regional reps), we´ve met with more of Paul´s former contacts than we ever dreamed possible for a first week! 

We stayed in Managua a tad longer than we had planned because Paul came down with one of his famous colds.  Rest, acupuncture, herbs...and he's on the mend.

It´s impossible to truly share life with Nicaraguans without some understanding of the economic inequity here.  As I mentioned earlier to many of you, Nicaragua is now the poorest country in the western hemisphere - with half the population trying to live on less than 1 U.S. dollar a day (about 14.5 cordobas).

An elementary school teacher in Managua earns about 600 cordobas a month.  She might have several children and might be able to rent a very small apartment for 300 C a month.  She also might want to purchase a quart of milk a day to divide amongst her children (6.5 C/quart...about 200 C a month). If she needs to spend 6 C a day for the bus to and from work she was already spent more than her salary.

Along side this picture place the fact that Nicaragua has some of the highest paid managers in Central America. I've also read that the Minister of Education was paid $10,000 U.S. per MONTH...and I´ve read that other Ministers have been paid the same (I've had the Minister of Education salary verified...but not the others....just too hard to believe!!!).  These salaries are higher than in any other country in Central America.

It is into this scene that the World Bank is urging the implementation of the POVERTY REDUCTION STRATEGY  (this is the new verbage...used to be "Structural Adjustment").  In education this is carried out by placing a larger burden of payment for education on the parents and the local communities.  Now most schools have agreed to become autonomous...which means the state pays for the salaries of the teachers and the parents and the communities pay for the school building repairs, educational materials, additional teacher salaries if the enrollment increases, desks, etc.

This topic deserves a more expansive and detailed development than I've given, but I wanted to at least start the story. I'm sure you will agree that is is criminal that people who work all day and still cannot satisfy the basic nutitional needs of their children now have to help pay for their children's education. They have no place to squeeze pennies. Are we surprised to learn that nearly half the children of school age do not attend?

We, as U.S. citizens, are part of this tragedy. The U.S. has significant power (and veto power) in the World Bank because of our level of funding. That means our tax dollars are supporting these changes. Our tax dollars are being used to make changes that can't possibly be good for the poorest  people in the poorest country in the western hemisphere....and this money will have to be paid back by the workers of Nicaragua!  They are again going into debt and not being helped! 

It is quite possible that our tax dollars are NOT helping to eliminate poverty...but ARE helping to pave the way for multi-national corporations.  We'll certainly have to look at this more.

You'll be happy to know that Jenny and Tom have a housekeeper who is paid quite well. She discussed her history with me...says she used to work all day and not be able do more than feed her children. I'm wondering how she even fed her children in those days!

Thanks for your interest!  We send each and every one of you a hug.... (and sorry for typos, etc, but we don´t have much time to use the computer!!!)

 Pam and Paul