I’ve been trying to write about sugar in Nicaragua for weeks now. Blogs are coming. Meantime, here’s a poem written by my host in Managua. I stayed with Elizabeth, her sister and her mother in a little house uphill from the Bonsucro conference venue.
Aun vivo a pesar que el sol y las estrellas están lejos de mi.
Aun vivo a pesar que existen mil fronteras en mi tierra.
Aun vivo a pesar que existen leyes escritas por el hombre para bien y para mal.
Aun vivo a pesar que mueren cada día miles de niños por falta de un pedazo de pan.
Y porque no seguir viviendo si lo único que no tengo es tu amor.
Elizabeth Chamorro Cabistan.
(I still live, though the sun and stars are far from me / I still live, though there are a thousand boundaries in my land / I still live, though laws are written for good and evil / I still live, though thousands of children die each day for lack of a slice of bread / And why not keep living, if all I don’t have is your love?)
NomoGaia isn’t staffed with literary scholars, but Elizabeth recited this to me when we were talking one morning about the politics of sugar in Nicaragua. She saw in our research her sentiments about the country she loves. Political divisions, inequitable laws, and grinding poverty are persistent realities, even as Nicaragua has opened for business and tourism.
If you clicked on that link, you met the Pellas family.
Powerful families and political factions have divided Nicaragua throughout history, moving its capital city at least 4 times since the country’s independence. The liberals of Leon brushed up against the Pellas family – sugar barons since the 1800s – nationalizing the Pellas holdings in 1979. But since 1990 the family has been back in business, seeing its wealth grow exponentially in Nicaragua. Carlos Pellas, the current patriarch, talks a good game about social responsibility, but conditions for his cane workers only improved once he was removed from a management role at the sugar operations.
On his watch, thousands of young cane cutters died. They’re still dying. More about that tomorrow.