“In the flash of this moment / you’re the best of what we are / don’t let them stop you now / Nicaragua.” – Bruce Cockburn (1984)
MANAGUA – Nearly 30 years ago I had lunch with Bruce Cockburn as preparation for a feature I was to write about the singer-songwriter’s tour of Guatemala and Nicaragua. Having lunch in the old Hotel Nova Scotian, I asked Bruce about his trip, and it was more than an hour before I got to ask the second question, not that I needed to ask any more.
While I did my best to tell his story of witnessing the early days of the Sandinista revolution and the horrors he learned of in Guatemala, he said it best himself with the album Stealing Fire. One minute he’s angrily pounding out “If I Had A Rocket Launcher,” the next stirring hope with “Nicaragua” or “Dust and Diesel.”
Cockburn was not the only pop culture artist to get swept up the aftermath of the Sandinista revolution. Rolling Stone magazine still considers the Clash’s Sandinista to be among the top 500 albums of all time. It seemed everyone was watching Nicaragua.
Thirty years on you don’t hear as much about this Central American nation wedged between Costa Rica to the south, El Salvador and Honduras to the north, bordered east and west by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. As part of my preparations to come here I spoke with someone at my bank, who wanted to know how one spelled ‘Nicaragua’ and where it was.
Where to begin, the devastating 1972 earthquake? The revolution? The Contras? The Somoza dynasty? Or do you go back to the 1930s, the U.S. occupation and Sandino himself?
Nicaragua today is the second poorest country in the hemisphere after Haiti. Almost 80 per cent of Nicaragua’s population lives on less than U.S. $2 per day. It is among the most likely locations in the world to experience a natural disaster. Is it any wonder that the volcano appears to be a stand-in for the country’s national emblem?
Myself and OPSEU Board Member Jeff Arbus are here to tour the country over the coming nine days – and we’re planning on bringing you along. Don’t worry about the travel shots – we got them for you already.
We’re here with a delegation from Horizons of Friendship, a unique non-governmental organization committed to promoting social justice and sustainable development in Central America and Mexico. While Canada has produced many hard-working NGO’s that do incredible work on the international stage, Horizons is unusual in that it is based in rural Cobourg, Ontario.
Day one started at Pearson International Airport at 3 am, a Tim’s in hand. It’s ending in a hotel a few hundred metres from the Managua airport. There’s been time for a dip in the pool, a quick cerveza and dinner. Tomorrow the real fun begins.
We hope you’ll follow the adventures of the two of us in the coming days. Travel has an odd way of not only shedding light on the destination, but also on adding perspective about the places we come from. Please come along!