This week students from the College of New Jersey's Bonner Center for Civic and Community Engagement are in Nicaragua with a Witness for Peace delegation. This is a direct account from those students.
Today was a very interesting day. Each day of our delegation we will be doing a quick reflection or check in on how everyone is feeling. This exercise allows us to speak without interference from others. It’s a self reflection which makes you vocalize your internal thoughts. We then spoke quickly about our initial feelings in the difference of culture in Nicaragua compared to our own. Things that were brought up included clothing (it’s a lot tighter and fancier), everyone is wearing heals, and there is a lot of PDA. Other cultural differences included seeing young children left unattended and working on the streets.
We soon after left our first hostel to come to CEPAD, which we will stay for the majority of time. Once at CEPAD we did an exercise on power vs. privilege, where we discussed what the American dream. Which we described as the typical owning a house, white picket fence, college education and other aspects of identity to what determines your success in America. We then did the line activity, which we realized our group, as small as it is, is very diverse. From that activity we named systems of oppression like racism, sexism, ageism, etc. These systems determine your power and privilege in American society.
Soon after lunch we went to the local market, where we were given $2 US (the amount an average Nicaraguan makes in a day) to spend on food for a family of six. We quickly noticed how difficult this feat is. We were able to buy some rice and beans but that was about it. We also realized that if that was all we can spend on food, how do we pay to cook the food or buy other necessities? After spending our money in the local market we went a more tourist centered affluent mall, which featured big names stores like Nike and Guess. There were a lot less people and the prices were hiked up. The workers, although they got paid more, were still only living on $6US a day. They also were expected to look nicer and pay to get to work.
Our next activity took us to a part in Managua that consisted of government funded houses for the victims of DDT or pesticides sprayed on bananas produced by transnational companies like Dole or Chiquita. These people have been in a struggle with the companies and report that their physical and mental health has been affected by the chemicals. 1000s of people have gotten sick, become sterile, and even died because of the spray. We came back to the hostile to watch the documentary “Banana” which portrayed one of the many court cases about the struggle. Our group then reflected on both the movie and our interaction with Guillermo, one of the directive bodies of the FSLN.
Overall, it was a very intense day where we did and learned a lot of Nicaragua, especially in terms of how the United States companies use their power and privilege to take advantage of the impoverished working class.
-Maria, Megan and Kristina
This post was originally published here.