Anyoleth Rizo Gutierrez
Text by Jess Ruderman
On a beach in Tarcoles, Costa Rica, 20 year old Anyoleth Rizo Gutierrez holds the Nicaraguan flag, emboldened by pride for her country. The same country that would arrest her for holding the same flag on its soil. Rizo Gutierrez may represent her country with pride, but she is no ordinary Nicaraguan.
“It’s kind of different to cross the border and see like ‘Now I can speak about the crisis here in Costa Rica.’ I can express myself without worrying who is listening to me and how,” Rizo Gutierrez said. “It’s kind of disturbing.”
Rizo Gutierrez is a native to Nicaragua, but spent most of her life growing up further south in her neighboring country, Costa Rica. Her senior year of high school, her mother decided to move their family back home, but ‘home’ was the farthest thing Rizo Gutierrez considered the place.
“I’m going to be honest, when I left Costa Rica in 2015 I was hating how much my mom was making this decision of moving me to Nicaragua,” Rizo Gutierrez said. “I couldn’t see myself in Nicaragua. What am I going to do there? What am I supposed to do there?”
After beginning her studies in English and starting at university with a focus in political science, Rizo Gutierrez found her purpose.
While the political protests put a semester hold on her education, Rizo Gutierrez took the time to take to the streets with her peers in support of injustices she believed her country was being faced with. Despite the dangers of supporting such a cause, Rizo Gutierrez said she never felt as if it was not something she could be a part of - no matter the danger.
“It’s kind of interesting. We were only one. We weren’t seeing if you were a female or male,” Rizo Gutierrez said. “Of course, we were helping because my classmates, my male classmates, they didn’t want us to be on the direct roads because they knew it was dangerous for us. That maybe we couldn’t run as fast as they can.
“So, we were helping looking for medicines in the trash. We were going to drugstores and asking ‘Could you give us free medicine?’ because we have a protest this next day and we need this.”
Rizo Gutierrez may not be at the head of a protest, but her assistance guiding her peers as class president both in and out of the classroom, demanding answers from her government and refusing to shy away has made a lasting impact on the spirit of the people in her community and continues to do so.
The issues currently facing the country of Nicaragua may have divided a nation, but Rizo Gutierrez ensures they will never divide the students or the people.
“It was very interesting to know how we as a society, we were united,” Rizo Gutierrez said. “We weren’t thinking about if you were a male or a female. We were only thinking about if we were doing the right thing in the right moment. If it’s not now, it would be never.”