When the Future Is Now

text and photos by Beverly Wakiaga

The school in La Ceiba is caked with dust. Some of the classrooms are buzzing with activity. It is a Saturday, but you could easily believe it is a Friday afternoon.There are teenagers standing by classrooms, by bikes or simply walking to the shop at the end of the yard. This is where you can find some of Nicaragua’s young. The future movers and shakers of the country.

I went into the school expecting to see a correlation between the generation that fought in the revolution and the generation that the revolution was fought for. I hit a roadblock with my question on what the youth of Nicaragua had been taught about the revolution. Kiara, our first interviewee had been speaking with confidence a few minutes earlier, but once the question was asked, she became shy.

Could it be that the young in Nicaragua are not being taught about the revolution? After all, the realities of the youth in Nicaragua today are different from the realities of the youth that fought and lived through the revolution. Today’s youth have the opportunity to dream and ask for more. It is no longer a crime for them to be young.

Or is it simply that they are focusing on what is happening in the country now?

In school

The school yard of the high school in La Ceiba sits empty, awaiting the dismissal of Saturday classes.

I changed my tack and instead of asking the youth of Nicaragua what they had learned of the revolution, I asked them about something they knew best: Nicaragua in this present moment and what they need from their country.

One of the things that kept popping up when we talked to different Nicaraguans is a lack of resources. Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America and has widespread unemployment and poverty.

Kiara would like to be a police officer in the future. However, she thinks the resources for a career like that are smaller in Nicaragua. If she were given the opportunity to study anywhere else in the world she said she would choose the United States because she thinks she will have the resources to do what she pleases with her career in America. At 16, she knows the power of the dollar and what it could do for her.

“Here, you can’t obtain as many things as you would want. There [the United States] much more is possible,” she explained.

At 19, Veronica is slightly older than Kiara. She stands with her backpack strap on one shoulder, managing to convey shyness and a sense of maturity and wisdom. She too thinks life in Nicaragua is hard because of the economic difficulties. Her aim is to study to be a nurse.

“I would like to help my country because I know that we don’t have enough resources and people don’t have the opportunity to see a doctor. So I would like to help people who cannot do that,” Veronica explains.

Kiara’s friend Faviola stands beside her the entire time, quietly taking in the proceedings of our interview. Occasionally, they will glance and smile at each other when they are not sure what to say. When it’s her turn, she echoes Kiara and Veronica  sentiments. She doesn’t think life in Nicaragua is too difficult, however she would like it to improve.

Nicaraguans are deceptively young looking people. You can easily find yourself assuming the age of the people you are in a room with. Such was the case at the Asociación de Mujeres Luisa Amanda Espinoza in Chinandega. It serves as a community center for the women and mothers who lost their loved ones during the Revolution, and some of the space is rented out to teachers who run a small language school. It is in one of the English language classes that we meet Francierly. Dressed in a green Hello Kitty shirt, she looks 10 or 13 years old. In reality, she is 16 and about to go off to university. Her aspiration is to go to another country to study and then go back to Nicaragua to help the people in need.

Her classmate Richard has a different idea. He wants to be a doctor in the future, so he can leave Nicaragua to go study in another country, preferably the United States, and more specifically, Miami. Richard is 13 years old and he already knows he wants to leave Nicaragua and only come back to visit.

Then there’s Jeremy. He’s 11-years-old and lives in Chinandega. He knows what Nicaragua needs: More opportunities and more jobs so people don’t have to leave to go to other countries to find jobs, he says. Jeremy’s mother moved to Panama when he was 5 and hasn’t visited since she left.

“I believe that we can change Nicaragua if we have more schools. More children will have the opportunity to study,” Jeremy explains. “I would like to have more public schools in the country and that way they don’t need to pay for going to school. More universities so we can have careers and not travel to other countries to study but stay here in Nicaragua.”

In the market

Walarao García stands by his family's market stand, which he has grown over the last seven years.

Walarao Garcia, a 27-year-old market vendor in Leon has a different view of what the problem is in Nicaragua. Garcia clearly stands out as one of the youngest people in the market in his white T-shirt and firefly chain. He inherited the stand from his parents seven years ago. He was studying to be a manager when his mother got sick. He left his studies to come help out at the stand. When he first got the business it was small, but over the seven years he has managed to open two other stands, get a house and a car.

His views on Nicaragua in the present are different from what we heard from others. He thinks the problem with Nicaragua is the young people. It’s not a specific generational thing, where the people who fought in the Revolution are significantly better than his generation. He believes that if you work hard you will reap the benefits of what you sow.

“If you do your best job you can achieve anything you want,” Garcia said.

Maritza Narvaez, our translator and main source for anything Nicaraguan, believes that people simply need to pull together to push Nicaragua forward.

“Most of the people say we need foreign help. I don’t think that’s necessary,” Narvaez said. “People have too much hope in others and in my opinion I think we can do it. If we’re all together, we can help our country.”

This is Nicaragua. The sun still rises in the East and sets in the West. The streets are filled with people, both young and old, walking, running or simply strolling to a place only they know. For many people, Nicaragua is on the way to doing better, but it still has a long way to go. The generation that fought in the revolution is either disenchanted by the current Ortega government or holding out hope that things will get better. The youth of Nicaragua, however, are simply asking for more. More than what their grandparents and parents got. As Kiara put it when asked what it was she hoped for the future of Nicaragua: “More resources, more jobs. For our country to develop,” she said.