Blogia

Kristin in Nicaragua

Managua Dec. 2011

I took advantage of the week of UCSD campus closure and came to Managua on Sunday the 25th to spend a week of "working vacation". I hoped to reconnect with several of the families in my dissertation study, in order to follow up with them and find out how things are going in their transnational lives. Landing at the airport on Sunday night, the first thing I noticed was the humidity - unlikely for December, it had rained throughout much of Nicaragua on Christmas Day, causing some flooding and dislocation in the coastal regions (likely effects of global climate change). I felt strange being back in Managua -- time can be so deceiving -- it feels as if I haven't been here in years; simultaneously, I feel as if it was only last week that I was here conducting my dissertation research. Actually, a return trip in December 2010 was cut short due to my grandmother's ill-health; and so this is my first real return trip since my dissertation fieldwork ended in July 2010. I find Managua much the same -- the main noticable difference is that the rotundas on the main avenues are this year decorated with model-size versions of recently-reelected Daniel Ortega's "casas para el pueblo" or "educación para tod@s". Other than these model-size houses, there are few visible signs of the FSLN's ongoing social programs for the poor  - except one group of cinderblock houses that are part of the "casas para el pueblo" program that were formerly unpainted are now brightly painted in various pastel colors (my friends tell me these are the "favorite colors of the first lady" and with each house painted several different colors, they do resemble clowns, as their critics accuse). I am spending my days visiting several of the families in my study- those I plan to follow up with and conduct ongoing research for my future book on transnational family life. Some changes have transpired in the past year and a half: one girl joined her mother in Panama, a boy joined his mother in New York City, and another girl has plans to rejoin her mother in Miami in the coming year. These changes point to the importance of ongoing (longitudinal) research - because family life changes with time and circumstances. Some things remain the same - a mother is visiting from Costa Rica, her children with no plans to leave Nicaragua - and families continue to rely on the internet to "chat" and converse with family members abroad. I look forward to spending time in the future with some of these families in "paises de destino" - destination countries of Spain, Panama, Costa Rica, and the U.S. Hopefully I will find some funding to conduct this research in the summer of 2012... For the remainder of my week in Managua, I will take some of the kids in my families to the movies one afternoon and visit another grandmother whose daughter took her daughters with her to Spain one morning. And then I'll "enjoy" (or, more likely, endure) the loud, fire-cracking, festivities of New Year's Eve with a friend and her family. Feliz año nuevo from Managua...

coming/going "home"

while living abroad has its challenges -- learning new languages, adapting to new climates, finding addresses with new directions, adjusting to different schedules, and attempting to understand others' ways of being -- for me, coming "home" (in my case, back to Southern California) is always the more difficult adjustment. this has been the case after I lived in México for a year, Honduras for a summer, Nicaragua for 2 different summers, Brazil for 6 months, and now Nicaragua for 11 consecutive months. I've been back for two weeks now and the thing that struck me most initially was how LARGE everything in the U.S. seems: cell phones are bigger (and handhelds are ubiquitous), freeways are massive, supermarkets have more choices than anyone could ever desire, and people themselves are bigger than in many other places. All these things combine, I think, to lead people in the U.S. to lose a sense of self-consciousness (I'm generalizing now), what I mean is that it's so easy to become un-self reflective about: how much we consume, how much physical and material space we occupy, how loud we speak (on our handhelds when everyone is listening), how we think, and how we impose these ways of being (consciously and unconsciously) on the rest of the world. I don't mean for this to be a blanket critique of the U.S. -- I for one, LOVE my ethnically diverse, working class Los Angeles neighborhood where, somehow, we all seem to get along: the Central American first generation immigrants, the South Korean storekeepers, the Cambodian donut store owners (who make delicious pan dulce, by the way, which they sell using their quite proficient Spanish), the Mexican botanica owners, the Salvadoran pupuseria operators, the African American families, the Latino hipster-skater youth, the neighborhood borrachos, and even the calle 18 gangsters -- we all seem to get along. I love that I live in a building built in the 1930s that has rent control (saves me in grad school!), that I can bike to work with my neighbor, and that Los Angeles celebrated yesterday when a district court judge overturned Prop 8 (yay for civil rights!). I love, in short, the diversity of L.A. -- ethnic, national, religious, sexual, linguistic, age -- diversity. And of course it is good to be reunited with my cat Salvador, and to be close to my mom and my aging grandmother. However, my heart longs to be back in Nicaragua, I miss the incredible engagement I felt in every activity in my daily routine: in my research, in my relationships with the families in my study, in my work with Servicio Jesuita para Migrantes, and even with students in my spinning classes! Somehow life in Managua grew on me - despite the heat, traffic, political instability, insecurity and even chaos - I developed a sense of community, of belonging. In short, these feelings raise deep personal issues about the meaning of "home". In part, home is where we have family, friends, neighbors, caring, trusting and supportive relationships with other people, our pets (of course, I'm an animal lover!), our work, our hobbies. In a more academic sense, migration scholars have written about how the meaning of "home" shifts for migrants, who often form new families in destination countries that become their new "home". However, these scholars point out, despite time and distance, migrants' longings for an imagined "home" that they feel about their country of origin persist, and many dream of one day moving "back home", buying a house, returning to live near extended family in their country of birth. In a curious way, I'm feeling my life now as straddling borders, part of me -- my commitments to my work and the relationships I formed with colleagues, friends, and two particular families in my study -- this part of me remains in Nicaragua, and I'm making liberal use of modern communication technologies (thank goodness for skype - seriously, anthropological fieldwork pre-web communication capability was a whole different experience!) to "stay in touch". I am also currently teaching a summer class at UCLA and hoping to bring some of the passion I felt during my fieldwork to the classroom and to my students' quest for knowledge about Latin American Communities (the title of my class). At times I think about how it is as if I am a reverse, voluntary, migrant whose birthplace happens to afford her the ability to travel, to cross borders "legally", to live, work, study in other places, in places that other people want or feel compelled to leave because they find limited or no options for sustaining their own and their families' lives in their countries of origin. Life has given me this privilege, has opened the world to me, and this endows me with an incredible sense of moral responsibility to tell the stories that Nicaraguans shared with me - this is now the project I face in writing my dissertation. It's also strangely difficult to conclude a blog, but this will be my last post here. As I move forward with different projects in the coming months, mainly writing my dissertation, but also ongoing solidarity with the work of SJM, and other personal adventures and goals, I may open a new blog; if I do so, I'll post the address here. Thanks for reading and for your thoughtful comments this past year, on and off this blog space. **peace/paz**

last day of field work

While I'm not leaving for a few more days, yesterday was my last day of "trabajo de campo"-- I took the microbus (minivan) leaving Managua at 5:30am for Chinandega, then another bus (big, old yellow schoolbus) for an hour to the rural community of Villa 15 de Julio, which sits in the lowlands surrounding the highest volcano in Nicaragua, San Cristobal. The bus ride is long and tiring, and the suffocatingly hot weather in Chinandega makes fieldwork there hot and sweaty. (there's a reason coca cola is the most popular soft drink here!) Yesterday I interviewed three abuelas that i had met the week prior when I conducted a workshop for SJM in this same community. Each of these three grandmothers has more than one adult child who has migrated - to Spain, the U.S., Costa Rica, and El Salvador. Needless to say, migration from the rural communities of Chinandega is very common. One of the abuelas I interviewed has a son who attempted migration to the U.S. and was deported from México three times before finally making it across the border (just goes to show where people are desperate, they will try, try, and try again, no matter how many walls, "migra" agents, armed gangs, or other obstacles are in their path). This same woman also has a daughter in Spain and is raising three children of this mother migrant. Her younger daughter also attempted migration to Spain and was detained 3 days by Spanish migration authorities before being sent back to Nicaragua. So many stories, so many lives, so many emotions... While I'm finishing up field work, the work of data analysis lies before me, and the responsibility of writing up these stories with the same conviction and honesty with which they were shared with me... 

you know you're in nicaragua when...

i've wanted to write this list for a while and haven't gotten around to it. this will just be a start...

*no café sells decaf  *coffee tastes very good  *the most common meeting place is a mall (at least in managua)  *you end many sentences with " va pue' "  *you define yourself via soccer allegiances, as in: barca or real madrid; brasil or argentina  *you eat gallo pinto at least one meal a day  *you start many sentences with "Ideay"  *you define yourself politically as either "con daniel", "sandinista, no ortegüista", or "liberal"  *you define yourself religiously as either "católica" or "cristiana"  *a "cool" day is 80F  *7 out of 10 of your friends and neighbors have at least one family member living abroad (Miami, L.A., Costa Rica, Spain)   *a meeting set for 9am starts at 10:30 and no one seems to mind *a common accessory for women is a small towel (to fan/wipe sweat with)  *at least once a month, there is a political crisis of varying proportions that leads people in the opposition to claim "coup", "chaos", or worse  *firing mortars or home-made rifles into the air is common at political rallies or cultural events, even if it does make your skin crawl  *if you have money, you spend semana santa and other vacations "en la playa"  *the main daily newspaper refers to the president as the "dictator"  *the president refers to "Hugo" (Chavez) as if he were a national hero *Cuban medical brigades are providing (high-quality) care in at least one neighborhood in your city at any one time *At any public event (political rally, student demonstration, soccer match, church service), the louder (the music, the mortars, the loud speakers) the better  *minimum wage is @ $125USD/month  *As soon as you arrive at someone's home, you are offered food and drink, and you must accept, or risk insulting your host (even if they only make minimum wage and are giving you the last beans and rice they have) *women over-adorn themselves in matching jewelry (including the cheap, plastic, made-in-china kind) *as a woman, it's common (even expected) to be honked or yelled at as you walk down the street (by men, taxi drivers,etc.) *female taxi drivers basically don't exist  *in hiring, it's normal to age-discriminate (e.g. "Seeking attendant, female, 18-25 years") *you have the "choice" of two cell phone carriers, both probably owned by the same transnational company, and both offering so-called "promociones", but you keep adding "saldo" (money) to your phone and it just keeps running out of calling time  *you can be very proud to call Katia Cardenal your own  *the sun set over lake managua and surrounding volcanoes is beautiful enough to take your breath away, if you take the time to look

Campaign to Protect and Defend Nicaraguan Migrants

Campaign to Protect and Defend Nicaraguan Migrants

This past week I co-facilitated a workshop on migration (issues and problems in Nicaragua) and Servicio Jesuita de Migrantes' campaign (objectives, activities, opportunities) for all the campaign volunteers (like myself) who will be reproducing a similar workshop throughout several departamentos (states) in the coming weeks. It was great to feel the volunteers' enthusiasm for the campaign, and to be able to share my about migration. This coming week, I'll be joined by other volunteers and will conduct a workshop in Chinandega and another in Estelí. Putting some of the insights I've gained over the past year into practice in this way, engaging in public education, raising awareness about migration and its many complex causes and consequences, is a very rewarding way to spend my final weeks of fieldwork. (Note: the full name of the Campaign is "Campaña por la Protección y Defensa de los Derechos de la Población Migrante Nicaragüense".

Rock & Social Critique

While the Nicaraguan music & culture scene is somewhat limited, socially-conscious local artists definitely exist. The other day on ROCK 105.5 FM in Managua, I heard this "tuani" (cool) alt rock song called "Diakachimba" by a group from León called Punto 5. The song is essentially a critique of Nicaraguan migration to Costa Rica, basically telling young people not to migrate: "Nicaragua es mi lugar..." Check it out! Video in YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wm1uHvQoQRI

The hook (for those need translation): "Don't you leave, We are Nicas, They don't want us in Costa Rica; They don't tell you 'Pura Vida' any more, but here we are pure 'de a cachimba' -or - 'Diakachimba'." "Pura vida" is a national saying in Costa Rica; a rough translation of "Diakachimba" might be "super cool" -- anyone with a better translation, please comment it! 

For those interested, the entire album of local rock artist Perrozompopo can be downloaded free at his site: http://www.perrozompopo.com/. A favorite song of mine is "Pasando Más" - captures well my feelings about living in Managua.

Spinning Competition!

Spinning Competition!

Today in the mall Galerías, along with 5 of my students from my spinning classes, I participated in Managua's 4th annual spinning competition. It was held on the mall floor, with our bikes facing a stage where instructors gave us routines to follow, and while mall shoppers looked on (haha)! My students competed in the "beginner" event (60 mins), and I competed in the "advanced" (90 mins). It was a blast! I was SO proud of my students, two of whom (pictured here) took 2nd place, 1 in "damas" and 1 in "masters"; another male student took 1st place in "masters". The judges evaluated several things: cadence, "fuerza" (resistance on the bike), and position. What a fun way to promote fitness! I have really enjoyed teaching spinning here, many of my students have gotten back into working out for the first time in years as a result of my classes, and it is truly gratifying to be a part of people feeling happy & healthy! salud y bicicletas!!! 

en la radio de nuevo

en la radio de nuevo

Today we recorded a program that will air Friday July 2 at 10am on 102.3FM (you can stream live at www.ladecolor.com) with two abuelas who have participated in my study and who I invited to be in servicio jesuita de migrantes’ radio program "La Mochila Viajera". Doñas Marbeya y Angela came to the studio of Radio Universidad at the UCA and shared their emotionally-moving testimonies as grandmothers raising children of mother migrants. There were several moments where their voices choked up with tears, as they described feeling the loss of their daugthers and the double-cargo of raising their grandchildren. They also talked about witnessing their grandchildren’s sadness at not having their mothers close, and how "this sadness passes to us". Often, when grandmothers in migrant-sending households are mentioned at all (in academic or public discourse), they are referred to as solely or primarily interested in receiving the financial remittances sent by migrants. Our radio program showed the other side of the experiences of transnational families, the way migrants’ absence leaves feelings of loss that, in Doña Angela’s words, "aren’t replaced by money". This story most certainly will be central to my dissertation...

Nicaragua's Asamblea Nacional

Yesterday i spent all morning with my compañeros from Servicio Jesuita de Migrantes on the floor of the Asamblea Nacional (AN) - Nicaragua's national legislative body (it is a one-camera system here). We were lobbying motions to be included in the Migration Law that is currently being debated. Just as I have felt when I've lobbied on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., this type of direct political involvement changes one's perspective on "democracy" -- laws and public policies feel closer, more accessible, more personable, especially when you watch legislators voting electronically on each chapter of a huge legal document while simultaneously checking their facebook pages and talking on their IPhones! (Which seemed to be the telephone of choice of Nicaragua's National Assembly!). While two of the motions that we presented with SJM did not have consensus, one did - meaning we have support from legislators both from the FSLN and the ALN (one of several "liberal" or opposition parties). This motion pertains to the conditions on the migrant retention center in Managua and will be voted on when the Assembly returns to the migration law later this month. A parallel observation: despite what I have perceived to be an overwhelming feeling of chaos and insecurity in the Nicaraguan political system during my time here, my experience inside the AN left me feeling as though the system is still, somehow, despite all the crises, partisian conflicts, and even violent confrontations, working. If democracy is defined by elected representatives from multiple parties meeting, reviewing legislative proposals, and voting to make laws, then it still seems to be functioning in Nicaragua.

in the news! 100% Noticias

Today we were working in the SJM office when a reporter for 100% Noticias (Canal 15) came to interview us about the similarities between the AZ anti-migrant law and the Costa Rica migration law (passed this year). While I resisted being interviewed, they insisted, and so I mentioned some of the similar roots of anti-migrant xenophobia in Costa Rica and the U.S., as well as the problems of undocumented migration in both countries. I also emphasized that the Nicaraguan government has known about the CR migration reform law for many months, but failed to act in a way that would protect the hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants living in Costa Rica, who now face the difficult prospect of regularizing their documentation status without the assistance from Nicaraguan consulates in Costa Rica, or deportation/return for failing to do so. As a result, migrants have to return to Nicaragua to process their documents, involving the high economic and physical costs of an undocumented passage across the Nicaragua-Costa Rica border at one of many "puntos ciegos" (blind spots). So I might be in the news today, against my better judgement, but here we are in full swing at SJM working on the Campaign for the Defense and Protection of the Rights of Nicaraguan Migrants, and wearing t-shirts with the logo "Somos Migrantes/Somos Nicaragüenses. Demandamos Protección!"

el bono salarial

I've been wanting to write about this for a while, but haven't known how to frame the discussion of Ortega's announcement May 1st (international workers day celebrated, like the World Cup of Soccer, just about everywhere else _except_ the U.S.!) that the goverment was going to give a "bono solidario" to pubic workers earning up to 2x minimum wage. That's about $250USD/month in Nicaragua, since a minimum wage salary is about $125USD/month. The salary bonus is about 500córdobas/month, the equivalent of about $25USD, paid from June 1 through the end of the year. Public employees to receive this bonus include schoolteachers, police officers, firefighters, administrative workers, etc. - basically working class goverment jobs. Ortega's announcement of the bonus was met by almost immediate rejection from the international financial community, namely the International Monetary Fund, which oversees Nicaragua's participation in a fiscal structural adjustment program, whose conditions include caps on public salaries. So the IMF said that the bono goes against the structural adjustment conditions, and decided that Nicaragua will therefore be ineligible for loans and capital investment promised for this year that would have totalled as much as 18 million USD. That's a big hit to the Nicaraguan economy. Justifying this action, IMF president Strauss-Kahn said, "while we help poor countries, that doesn't mean they can do whatever they want". So while international finanical organizations like the IMF and the U.S. embassy here in Managua have critized the bono, no one seems to be making the comparison to the actions of many "developed" countries in response to the economic crisis, which was to give money to taxpayers as a way of stimulating the economy. Remember those stimulus checks?!? Because the U.S. controls international financial institutions like the IMF, the rules of the global political economic game are set by the U.S. and its economic allies, meaning they can criticize poor countries led by non-ally governments like that of Ortega while looking the other way when they apply similar policies to their own economic problems. The hypocrisy in this is what confounds me most. While I've noted here my own critique of aspects of the Ortega regime, this bono seems a practical way to boost the economy (of course, there's a political motive as well). Similarly, most Nicaraguans I know who are critical of the government see the benefit to working families of such a bonus, and so support it, while they might not support the President generally. I know this news doesn't reach the U.S. very often, but this is big economic news this past month in Managua.

Somos Migrantes/Somos Nicaragüenses!

This is the slogan of the campaign I've been working on nearly full time these past two weeks with Servicio Jesuita para Migrantes. While Nicaragua enters into Mundial fever (for the Soccer World Cup in South Africa), we are entering campaign fever here at SJM, working round the clock to foment public education and policy reform to protect and benefit migrant human rights, both of Nicaraguan migrants living outside the country, as well as of the migrants in transit through Nicaragua. more soon.

working with noel and anne

working with noel and anne

just wanted to share this foto of myself working alongside visiting fulbrighter, anne schafele from El Salvador, and my gran compañero Noel from Servicio Jesuita de Migrantes. will be back on the radio next Friday with SJM talking about migration policies and politics. lots and lots of work to do...

migrant retention center in managua

migrant retention center in managua

the nicaraguan government releases very little official information on this center, but we know from the advocacy work and human rights monitoring of servicio jesuita para migrantes that the center consists of three rooms where anywhere from 5 to 100 detained migrants might be held at any one time. the migrants are usually detained in transit through nicaragua on their way to the U.S. or Canada. they are originarios of south america (esp. colombia, peru, ecuador), central america, the caribbean, africa (esp. eritrea and somalia) and asia (esp. vietnam and nepal). some have been detained for as long as 3 months, waiting either approval of their refugee or asylee petitions or deportation to home countries. deportation is of course complicated when migrants flee political violence, which is the case in many of these sending countries. with SJM, visiting fulbrighter anne and i attempted to enter the centro de retención (housed at the migration offices in downtown managua), but were denied access. apparently the government is becoming increasingly reluctant to open the center for fear of human rights denunciations. i am currently very involved in SJM’s work for a migration reform policy here in nicaragua (see future posts), and improved conditions and legal access for detainees in nicaragua will hopefully be one of the platforms for advocacy.

dia de las madres

dia de las madres

was celebrated sunday, may 30th. i'm not sure if it's possible to imagine this holiday more commercialized than in the united states, but it seemed as though just about everything was being sold in "promoción para las madres" - from fried chicken to house paint, acrylic nails to hardware, hair cuts to oil changes. i was able to enjoy a small celebration sunday with my friend karen's family, who invited me to share the afternoon in the house of her tía isabel, along with karen's mother and 4 other aunts. last thursday, the Red de Mujeres Familiares de Migrantes with which i work here celebrated with a gift exchange and encuentro (foto attached). to the right in the foto is fulbrighter anne visiting from el salvador. (see separate post). unfortunately, it seems that the Red's funding has not be renewed, so i'm seeing about helping write proposals to continue their work into the coming year(s). they are amazing mothers & grandmothers...

"La Yuma": movies, news, nationalism

While I was out of town when "La Yuma", the first Nicaraguan full length feature film to be produced in 20 years came out in theaters here, I was able to see it yesterday. The film is the story of a young woman named Yuma who lives in a barrio popular in Managua and struggles to get herself ahead through boxing. Yuma's family life, marked by machismo, an abusive stepfather, an indifferent mother, drug-using brother, and Yuma's loving protection of her two young siblings, is representative of the lives of so many young women in Managua. Her barrio, economically-poor, but rich in color, idiosyncrasy, and people trying to make a living any way they can, is also a reflection of the life in so many working class/poor barrios in Managua. The film starts and ends with baseball - the opening scene a game between the neighborhood gang and police - and the final scene a somewhat unsatisfying close to the film (in my view). Throughout, the film is situated at sites familiar to any Managua audience: the Universidad Centroamericana (where i often work), the "zona viva" in Belo Horizonte, and the city's Municipal Gym, where Yuma trains. It was fun to see the film in a theater here, with everyone talking excitedly about the scenes displayed on the big screen - a certain cause for national pride in a country that hasn't seen itself reflected this way in decades. In fact, in its first weekend in theaters here, La Yuma beat out Iron Man II at the box office, earning news coverage, which noted, "the gringo super production of the man of metal was cast to stones by the little national boxer". In an interview at the opening of the film in Managua, director Florence Jaugey said, (my translation): "i think the film fills a void. People go to the theaters, content, proud of being Nicaraguan, almost grateful to see themselves registered on screen. For us it's a battle won against indifference. We're so happy to see people enjoy the film and take it as their own. It's the best prize we could receive. It was worth the 10 years it took to bring the film to the big screen." Yes, that's right, the film was in production for 10 years before Jaugey could secure the needed financing to finish production and post production. The good news is that with all the hype and momentum surrounding the film, the Nicaraguan National Assembly passed a law to support the national audiovisual arts industry, a bill that had languished for years without support needed for passage. La Yuma has been recognized with prizes at various international film festivals, and I definitely recommend seeing it if it comes to the LA Latino Film Fest or an international film fest near you. If you see it, send me your comments! and if you want to read more from director Jaugey, see a good interview (en español) at: http://cineyvideocentroamericano.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=847:la-yuma-la-lucha-por-contar-historias&catid=19:noticias&Itemid=7

back in managua, back on air

many of you know i was in california for 10 days, and just returned to managua yesterday. at UCSD, i participated in the Center of Expertise on Migration & Health's first annual training workshop, where i presented a paper based on my work with children in mother migrant families. the children's expression, "lo siento en mi corazón", which i have blogged about here, was front and center in my argument that children are actors in transnational migration processes, living the experience of mother migration from their unique perspective, and expressing their emotional distress using what medical anthropologists call "idioms of distress", such as "i feel it in my heart". i am excited to keep working with the children i have grown close to here, and not looking forward to leaving them at all - staying in touch and maintaining these ties remains foremost in _my_ heart. today i was back on air at Radio Universidad with Servicio Jesuita para Migrantes, along with Galen Baynes from the Witness for Peace International Team in Managua, and we talked about the Arizona anti-migrant (racial profiling) law, and its implications for a humane migration reform in the U.S. in short, it seems that we should have learned by now that building more walls at the border will not stop migration, but only push people into more desperate and dangerous border crossings, and asking brown people for their papers is an extreme form of racial profiling and violation of civil liberties - such proposals will not stop people from wanting to migrate, as long as poverty persists in sending countries such as nicaragua, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and children will continue to embark on the journey "al norte" looking for ways to feed their families and striving for more opportunities. also it seems we should remember that not that long ago, the whole southwest US belonged to Mexico; asking people of native american and mexican descent now to show "papers" proving "migration status" seems a huge irony given this relatively recent historical context. so that's what i've been up to. hoping to get back into interviews starting next week... paz y amor.

ON AIR at Radio Universidad

ON AIR at Radio Universidad

La Mochila Viajera ("The Traveling Backback") is the name of Servicio Jesuita para Migrantes' weekly radio program on 102.3 Radio Universidad, the public radio station of Managua's Universidad Centroamericana. Friday April 30th I helped prepare a radio program focusing on the experiences of two daughters of mother migrants in the families in my study (pictured here are: on the left, Laleska, 11 years old, and Marbella, 14). The girls were GREAT! We had prepared our dialogue ahead of time, and they had rehearsed their responses to the questions I would ask them on air. We were all a bit nervous when we arrived at the studio, the first time any of us had been inside a radio station, but we quickly relaxed and fell into the dialogue we had prepared, which focused on their experiences and opinions about migration, specifically mother migration and its impact on young people like themselves. Needless to say, I was SO PROUD of "my girls", whom I have grown very close to over the past few months. They were excellent, articulate, smart, and self-confident, and really expressed both the challenges of living as children of mother migrants as well as their ability to cope and get ahead despite these challenges: you go girls! (I think you can find the program archived at www.ladecolor.com - check it out.)

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Arizona migration law: BOO!

While Nicaragua was the only Central American government not to speak out immediately against the new AZ racist immigration law (SB 1070), which as you probably know essentially makes racial profiling official state policy, passage of the law made front page news here yesterday. This type of public policy is setting us back decades in the struggle for humane migrant rights. For any one with a dose of common sense, we know that as long as economic conditions of chronic poverty, unemployment, and inequality exist, people will migrate. No walls, border police, or racist policies will stop people from trying to provide for a better life for their children. Moreover, migrations are a part of human history, and certainly central to the history of the United States. What Arizona is doing will only separate families, stew racial tensions, and is BAD PUBLIC POLICY. The only hope many of us have is that this will spur the Obama Administration and democrats and republicans alike in Washington DC to move forward in a much more expedient way on humane immigration policy reform that many of us have been pushing for for many many years. in the meantime, I join many civil society groups in calling for a boycott of Arizona until this law is repealed! Let's treat our neighbors as neighbors rather than criminals. for more and to take action see:  http://presente.org/campaigns/shame/org/soaw

 

Street violence, the “Turbas”, and Ortega’s crisis of legitimacy

This week the streets of Managua are once again plagued by the violence of political protests. Tuesday in front of the National Assembly, Wednesday at the Holiday Inn near the center of town, Thursday in the residencial area of Los Robles. Protestors mobilized by the Ortega administration, referred to as “Turbas” because they often cover their faces and wrap their heads in turban-like cloths, have been bussed to various locations in the city in support of the administration’s position regarding the appointment and tenure of Supreme Court justices. While the political issues are extremely complex (basically, two Ortega appointees are refusing to step down, but their replacements have also yet to be confirmed by the Assembly), at the street level, the result is more violence, fear, insecurity, and traffic. I’ve yet to understand how firing mortars into the hair, waving and shooting hand-made rifles, storming into private hotels filled with international guests, and burning up the cars of opposition party leaders contribute to building a democratic society. While I’m sympathetic to the government’s ideological position and anti-poverty programs, these protests just lead me to question it’s credibility and legitimacy. Friends and colleagues who work in government jobs (e.g. the Ministry of Family) tell me the party line this week is “show up at the protests or be fired or have your wages cut”. Thus it’s impossible to tell whether the people protesting in favor of the government’s position are actually Ortega supporters or are only being paid to show up and wave FSLN flags. Furthermore, I can’t help but feel all this insecurity, the turbas waving guns, the protests turning to tear-gas responses by the police, the mortars fired into the air, just feeds into the culture of violence and machismo that pervades Nicaragua. Just some reflections on “Earth Day” from the hot, humid, insecure streets of Managua.

 

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