A U.S. Voice

Last week I offered here an imagined letter from a Nicaraguan peasant-producer to us in the United States.  In it, I tried to articulate some of the observations and feelings a struggling Nicaraguan might  have about our holiday season and some of the traditions which have become so much a part of the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Upon reflection, I decided that the letter deserved a response from an “average” North American, generally unfamiliar with Nicaragua.  It would be impolite to disregard a friendly letter embedded with so many questions.  

I thank you for your letter from Nicaragua!  It’s always exciting to receive letters from people in other countries; we have enjoyed looking up Nicaragua and reading something about your country.  I’m sorry to admit that, even though Nicaragua is so close to the United States geographically, we know very little about your country and, especially, the U.S. history there.  I’m a little confused about why the U.S. has been such a difficult presence for Nicaraguans over the years.  I hope that all of that is now a distant memory!  Or do you still find that our country presents problems for Nicaragua?

I am writing this letter on an island which is located on Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world!  We are located very close to the Canadian border, so the weather here is quite cold, with snow in the air every day for the past week.  So it is difficult for some to think about global warming during a period like this!  I think cold weather like this is the reason for some people to doubt the reality of climate change.  But probably a bigger reason is that if climate change is real, then many businesses and individuals will be faced with the need to make big changes in their everyday lives.  It’s less complicated to do things the way we are used to doing them rather than face something as enormous as changing earth temperatures.  We might be pushing the problem off to our children and grandchildren, but by then maybe someone will have discovered a solution.  I’m sorry to hear about the effects that you are experiencing already.  Would it be possible for you to move to a better location?

We really love your coffee!  Almost everyone in our family drinks coffee and our favorite is from Nicaragua.  Maybe we even have some that might have been grown on your farm!  That would be exciting to know.  All I know is that the package says organically-grown and sold through something called fair trade.  I think that means you growers receive most of the money for the coffee.  Does organic and fair trade make a big difference to you?   We also like it because it’s so inexpensive for us to buy compared to some other coffees.

Yes, we are now done with our election season, thank goodness.  Nobody liked either candidate running for President in this cycle, which really makes us very nervous.  We might have even been better off with only one candidate, like you had!  Like your President Ortega, our President-Elect is one who makes outrageous statements, whether they are true or not.  It sounds like you know what you can expect from President Ortega; I don’t know what to expect from the President-Elect.  For maybe the first time ever, many people here are questioning whether our democratic process is really working, since our election was so full of misinformation and fighting.  You say that our democracy is older than yours, but sometimes as we become older we have ailments that begin to occur.

Our holiday season is at full-speed now!  The stores are full of shoppers and there are many parties and special productions to honor the season.  Yes, we eat more than we should during the season, but it seems to be a way to celebrate our way of life and all of its blessings.  The “Black Friday” events that you have seen on news programs seems to be a little less crazy this year; some stores even decided not to open on Thanksgiving Day.  But the stores were all filled with buyers on the day after Thanksgiving.  Many people are preferring to buy gifts online.  I read in the newspaper that almost $100 billion will be spent online this year.  Do you have Internet?

In answer to your question about celebrating the birth of Jesus, the answer is that many do still observe it in churches and in their homes.  More and more public locations forbid it because it is a religious expression that might offend others who are not Christian. It seems strange to me that celebrating the birth of Jesus is offensive to the public and not allowed when there are so many other expressions made out loud that are permitted as “free speech.”  But Christmas here in the U.S. is mostly a secular holiday now, so it’s hard to make rules against it.  I guess some people just struggle with beliefs that are different from their own.  Your tradition of La Purisima sounds beautiful, but I think it might not be allowed in our country because of possible interference with the public.  I’ll have to travel to Nicaragua to experience it!

I have really enjoyed our exchange of letters.  I’ve never had the chance to write to someone in another country.  It has made me think about our two cultures and the way we live.  I think that maybe you have a less hectic life and one that is more focused on important things.  Do you agree?  Sometimes I wonder if a simpler life is a much better way of living.   You have probably chosen wisely in the way that you live!

I hope that I may hear from you again in the future.  Maybe you can write the next letter in English and I won’t need to find a translator!

Best wishes,

P.S.  I have enclosed $20 as a help to you and your family.








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