From Infancy to Senescence

By SHELBY PETRIE

                                                 Photo by Shelby Petrie

                                               Photo by Shelby Petrie

A country’s culture is composed of its citizens’ attitudes, beliefs, customs and day-to-day activities. This project aims to portray the experiences that marked the lives of Nicaraguans born before the revolution. From infancy to senescence, the lives of these Nicaraguans are defined by patriotism and perseverance. Welcome to a snapshot of Nicaraguan life. 


Her name is Angela Montoya. She is 70 years old and has only been at the Hogar for five days now. She fell recently, almost breaking her knee, and didn’t have anywhere else to go. She thought she was being brought to the hospital, but wound up at the Hogar instead, which she admits upset her.

Angela was married at one point, but her husband has since passed away. During their marriage she had five children: Juan, Manuel, Medardo Jose, Ricardo Jose, and Martha, all of whom still visit her. She explains that she had to work extremely hard for her children during the revolution because her husband had left them. She would often go out into the woods in search of limber to keep her family warm. She says that she “worked like a horse.”

Angela reveals that she doesn’t understand the point of the war given that nothing was solved during it. She says that the current government is horrible. According to Angela, the government doesn’t pay attention to what poor people have to say; they solely indulge their own people, the rich people. Furthermore, she believes that women are treated horribly. The government doesn’t care about how hard women are working and she hates the fact that women get physically, emotionally and mentally abused.

Angela also has unpleasant feelings toward the police, saying that she is afraid of them. This fear derives from an incident involving one of her friends. Angela used to sell food and coffee and Jose Luis Zavalo was a frequent customer of hers. One day Jose was arrested and put in prison. He didn’t get to see his wife or kids, which is something that Angela didn’t agree with. Ever since then, she has disliked the police almost as much as she dislikes the government. However, despite all of the problems and issues present in Nicaragua, she says that she still loves it there. “This is my land, this is my country,” she says. 

Photo by Sarah Doiron

His name is Fabio Blanco. He is 67 years old and has lived in León his entire life, not once venturing outside of Nicaragua. Prior to living at the Hogar, Fabio was homeless. He foraged in the streets for three years until a few women finally recruited him to live there. He has been a resident of the Hogar for two years now and helps out wherever he can, given his above average health and strength.

Fabio has no family. His mother died seven years ago and his father 11, but he refers to them as his most treasured childhood memory. He has siblings in both Managua and León, however they do not visit him, nor has he ever had a wife or family of his own.

Growing up Fabio attended primary school, although eventually he became a carpenter. He prides himself on being handy. He practiced this trade for 14 years. Unfortunately, he now lacks the money required to continue building.

When Fabio was 25 years old he was forced to fight in the revolution. He fought for the government and recalls how horrible this time in his life was. He and his fellow fighters would often be taken out in the middle of the night to march through the mountains for as many as 15 days at a time. At one point, the government even wanted to kill him because they believed that he was a Sandinista.

However, despite the hardships he was made to endure throughout the course of the revolution, Fabio states that Nicaragua was better off during the reign of the Somoza regime than it is now. In his opinion, under the Somozas, food was more plentiful, things were more affordable, and jobs were more prevalent. He was not happy when Somoza fell. The Sandinistas promised that Nicaragua would change, but it never did. Fabio does not think that things will get better under Daniel Ortega either.

He says that an absence of jobs and food are Nicaragua’s current most pressing issues. According to him, no one is working, thieves and gangs are rampant, young students are doing drugs, and León is simply unsafe. While these adversities can leave certain impressions, Fabio believes that the most important take away for anyone visiting Nicaragua should be the people. He loves everything about Nicaragua and the people are a large part of what makes the country what it is. Fabio thinks it is important for U.S. students to come to Nicaragua and ask questions about what life is like there, so foreigners can better understand their reality. 

Photo by Margarita Díaz

Her name is Gioconda Mayorga. She is 77 years old and has lived in León her entire life. She has been at the Hogar for nine months now and says that she is a guest there.

When she was a child, Gioconda lived in a family home with those she refers to as her “godmothers.” Her biological mother was a maid at this home and the family she worked for truly loved Gioconda.

She is an only child and studied at a Catholic school growing up. She eventually graduated to become a commercial secretary; however, she never got a job because the family she lived with, and that her mom worked for, supplied her with all of her necessities. She worked around the house and helped to keep things in check. Furthermore, she has been single her entire life and never had any kids of her own.

When looking back , Gioconda recalls how terrible the revolution was. During the war, the family she lived with owned a farm in Poneloya. The Sandinistas took over this farm and kidnapped a father and a son. They let the father go so that he could retrieve the ransom, but later kidnapped his other younger son as well. Gioconda says this incident caused a great deal of anxiety, but the Sandinistas didn’t stop there. The Sandinistas really liked her family’s house and would come by every day to tell them that they should abandon their home so that it could be turned into a clinic.

Unfortunately, the Sandinistas weren’t Gioconda’s only problem. Her godmother had so much trust in her that she put all of her bank accounts under her and Gioconda’s names. This caused the godmother’s younger, biological son to develop a strong jealousy and resentment toward Gioconda. He disliked her so much that he began to make her life unbearable, so much so that she would feel nervous every second of the day. The godmother soon became ill and despite her poor health conditions, Gioconda could no longer stay in that house with the constant torture of the son. She packed a bag and fled, traumatized by the way she left her godmother.

Gioconda spent the next seven and a half years living with her friend Luisa Torres. She was extremely thankful for Luisa, but given Luisa’s large family and small house, Gioconda knew that she couldn’t stay there forever. She remembers having closed her eyes and realizing that the Hogar was the best place for her. She says that she is now worry-free. However, even in her new worry-free life, she is still able to recognize the problems that Nicaragua is facing. Gioconda believes that health and education are the country’s two most pressing issues. She also believes that everyone should have a roof over their head. Despite these shortcomings, Gioconda loves Nicaragua.

Photo by Shelby Petrie

His name is Timoteo Antonio. He is 78 years old and is from León, but grew up in Matagalpa . He came to the Hogar with the intention of living here, and has for the past two and a half years now.

Looking back on his childhood, Timoteo doesn’t remember how many years of schooling he completed, but knows that he started working when he was very young. Timoteo was a farmer. He grew things such as corn, wheat and cotton. He even had his own little bit of land at one point. Unfortunately, he wound up losing the land.

Timoteo has two sisters and two brothers who will, on occasion, come to visit him at the Hogar. In his adulthood, Timoteo was married and had either 10 or 12 children, he can’t recall. While he is no longer married, his children will still come to visit him from time to time.

When reflecting on his country’s history, Timoteo reveals that he was not involved in the revolution. He says that the revolution was horrible for everyone and that many people suffered. He, himself, knew people that had been killed. Timoteo explains that he liked the Somoza regime and refers to their reign as being the “good times,” when everything was calm. In contrast to the “good times,” Timoteo says that he does not feel the same way in regards to present-day Nicaragua. He believes that things have only gotten worse.

However, Timoteo has his faith to comfort him. Much like the vast majority of Nicaraguan citizens, Timoteo is Catholic. There is a chapel at the Hogar and he goes to mass every Sunday. Religion is a big part of people’s lives there. In addition to religion, patriotism is another Nicaraguan value. Timoteo says that the more time passes, the more he loves his country.

Photo by Margarita Díaz