Scenes from Nicaragua


On May 20, 1986, at 7 p.m., at least 800 contras attacked two cooperatives in Miraflores, 18 miles north-east of the city of Esteli. Eight people were killed and sixteen wounded and property was destroyed.

—A report from Witnesses For Peace, issued June 10

Miraflores, Nicaragua—“Miraflores” can be loosely translated as “see the flowers.” The Ministry of Agricultural Development and Agrarian Reform speaks of it as the seat of sixteen cooperative communities; but as with so much else of the revolution, the declaration has preceded the fulfillment it proclaims.

The frames and the fresh nicalit fiberboard of two of the sixteen Miraflores communities stand very close to where the Teodoso Pravia cooperative used to be. They are unfinished and uninhabited, because they are still waiting for their share of the ministry’s pinched supply of bricks. The Sandino and Pravia cooperatives came under assault by anti-Sandinista guerrillas three weeks before this visitor arrived. Sandino’s brick is half-ruined and Pravia’s wood has vaporized in a fire that had to have been carefully set and supervised down to the last ashes.

A few women gaze from the doorways of Sandino’s one-room houses with the not unfamiliar Nicaraguan face that seems to endure all things and wait in expectation of none. There are children about; but the bedding in these interiors runs too much to the sleeping bags of soldiers to suggest family quarters. When dark approaches the women and children mostly depart down the hill to sleep in one of the other settlements. Sandino lives around the clock only as a military outpost and an unassailable one, especially because the contras have left nothing they would think worth the risk of assailing.

There is the promise that the families will resettle in Sandino in due course. But it would be understandable if they felt the need for encouragement by tangible measures of security; and the interval of suspension seems so far to be passing without intrusion by the bustle and noise that signify works of reconstruction.

A troop of soldiers occupies the dirt in front of the porch of Sandino’s largest structure, perhaps a school or a store or an assembly hall for peaceful times lodged indefinitely in its future. This formation is identified as a signal company assigned to restore communications; but, as it is, these corpsmen merely stand in drowsy attention to the quiet tones of their commander. The impression is of some lesson taught in the open air and the suspicion is that they have been unable to bring along the equipment that would have made their presence more purposeful. It is a suspicion devoid of mockery; surplus wire is hard to find in Nicaraguan emergencies.

Ramon Gomez, who is wearing a white shirt, appears to be in charge and is asked to describe the battle of May 20 last. He obliges with evocations of eight hundred contras and the fire fight that lasted on and on for five hours until a Nicaraguan military detachment…

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