Nicaragua Study Tour: Managua to Matagalpa
James Hayes-Bohanan, Ph.D
|After breakfast at Hotel Europeo in Managua, we
set off to the coffee heartland of Matagalpa, in the north of the
country. It may look like Alex is already back in Massachusetts, but
Nica is full of the same convenience stores we have at home! In fact,
in the photo at right, taken the next day, it is difficult to find any
evidence that the students are in Nicaragua.
"Welcome to Latin America!"
These were my words to the students when we arrived at this crossroads market, about halfway between Managua and Matagalpa. Prior to this, we had of course been in Latin America, but in an urban and suburban setting that resembled home more than the places where we would spend the rest of our journey.
We later learned that this crossroads -- where a major Nicaraguan highway crosses the Pan-American Highway -- was the site of an important protest by coffee farmers in 2002.
Matagalpa is the name of one of Nicaragua's most important coffee-growing states; it is also the name of the state capital. At our first stop in the city, we were greeted by Jose Selorzano, a Vice President of UNAG, which is the Nicaraguan National Farmers and Ranchers Union. Mr. Selorzano described the general patterns of agriculture in Nicaragua, and how coffee fits into the larger picture. He explained that Germans and North Americans introduced coffee to Nicaragua in 1848.
We also met Felicity Butler, a British woman who works as an organizer for the CECOCAFEN co-op and who helped organize our trip. After a brief introduction to the organization, we went to the coffee museum, which houses a number of interesting exhibits about coffee and about the region, including pre-Columbian artifacts, modern and historic equipment, and murals.
At the museum, Mario Roa of CECOCAFEN explained how he saw the connections between coffee and broader geopolitical issues, including the Iraq war.
| Throughout the developing world, people are increasingly
concerned about the privatization of water. Companies such as Bechtel
(contractors best known for supplying the Iraq War and managing
Boston's Big Dig) are buying not only the right to sell water in many
countries, but also the rights to rainwater and rivers themselves.
People throughout the world are fighting back, most famously in
It is only appropriate that this protest mural is in a coffee museum. (Coffee is 98 percent water, and the slightest impurities can ruin an otherwise perfect cuppa.) The detail at right shows children holding up signs that read, "Water is Life," "Don't Contaminate the Water," and "Pure Water."
|Several of us were surprised to
see this painting, an amazing replica of a famous National Geographic
cover. It depicts a young woman, and was taken during the Afghan war
against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. The anonymous woman,
incidentally, was found in recent years, and positively identified as Sharbat
looked much older and very different, except for the penetrating eyes.
In fact, an iris scan was needed to confirm her identity, because she
did not remember the photo being taken, and had no idea that millions
of people around the world had been captivated by her gaze. Apparently,
one of those people is associated with Selva Negra.