The following is an imagined letter from a rural farmer in Nicaragua to those of us in the developed North. During this holiday time of year in the North, I have wondered how a peasant producer might regard our practices at Thanksgiving and Christmas, in light of realities of many in the global South to exist on less than $2 a day.
I bring you warm greetings from Nicaragua! I say warm greetings not only for saludos! but also because the temperatures here have been very warm, especially for this time of year. Do you have high temperatures in the North? We know that climate change is happening everywhere, but it seems like maybe it is worse for our countries in CentroAmerica. They say that many of you do not think that it is real, but I do not believe that.
Our rainfall was plentiful this year. In most areas it was satisfactory, but in other regions it was too much and the extra rainfall has hurt our plantings. We are worried about this because in addition to the wet conditions, we are very concerned about the markets. We have been discouraged by what we are told the markets will pay. Also, now the so-called “free market” and the policy of CAFTA (do you know this agreement?) will include farm products with prices that make it impossible for small producers like me to compete. With or without the rains, I am worried that our harvest cannot be sold at a good price. I think this CAFTA may be a good thing for you in Estados Unidos, but it has created problems for my family.
Like you, we have just completed an election season! My son is there in your country. He is a laborer in North Dakota in the oil fields there. He tells me that he thinks the election here in Nicaragua has brought a sadness to our people because the candidates did not tell the truth and there was much bitterness. He said that people there do not know much about our elections, but that they don’t know much about their own, either. Is it true that half of your people did not vote? We also have difficulties here. We are told that 60% of Nicaraguans voted, but most of us don’t believe that number. President Ortega was really the only candidate. Sometimes he says some outrageous things and many cannot support that. But our democracy is not as old as yours and we are still trying to become better. Do you like Mr. Trump?
We are able to see that you have begun your holiday festivals now. On the television I watched your Giving-thanks day, with all of the food that you have and big roasted birds! It looks like an enjoyable feast. I was wondering if all of the food gets eaten by each family. We have our festivals and celebrations, of course, but the food is not nearly so plentiful as what I have seen in pictures. For many of us in Nicaragua, it would be hard to imagine so much food at one time!
One thing that I don’t understand is what you have called viernes negro, or “Black Friday,” which really seems to begin on your Giving-thanks day. If your Giving-thanks day is a time for your family to be together and give thanks, why is that demonstrated by leaving the home to do buying? Maybe buying more things is one of your ways of being thankful? This year, I have heard that “Black Friday” happened in some stores here. We have some U.S. stores here who started to do it. But for most of us, buying is for satisfying a need that we have. It looks like in the United States that buying is more of an activity all by itself, and one that you do even when you do not have an actual need. My son says that it is a psychological need that you have, that you do even more of it when there is a crisis, to make you feel better. I remember that this was your way of coping with the terrible 9/11 incident.
We are soon to see the first of our festivities before Christmas. In several days we begin “La Purisima” or as my son translates it, the Immaculate Conception of Virgin Mary. Many thousands of young people in the country sing as loudly as they can and go from house to house to sing hymns honoring the Virgin Mary. In small towns like where I live there is an old custom of the Catholic Church organizing a parade. The priest goes around the town with a number of performers imitating people from the Bible and enacting the birth of Jesus Christ. Many people view this parade with great devotion.
Do you still celebrate the birth of Jesus or is your holiday more about buying? My son tells me that in some places you cannot even celebrate Jesus in public but I do not believe that could be true at Christmas!
I have enjoyed writing to you! I hope that my letter is not boring or irritating. I have never been to your country and do not know it too well. I would like to come there and see Disney World. Also the Statue of Liberty. It would be difficult for that to happen, so maybe you will come here to visit. We do not have as many things as you, but we have beautiful land and our hearts are open to you….
Adios, Su amigo Nicaraguense