Nicaragua Poems, Kilometre 156 – Renga for Carmelo
When I first went to Nicaragua in June 1986, the first place I stayed at was Cooperativa Ulysses Rodriguez, on kilometro 156 of the Panamerican highway north of Estelí, Nicaragua.
There I met a community of campesinos who had been granted the land of a wealthy landowner who had fled Nicaragua when the Sandinista Revolution was successful in 1979. They ran a rudimentary sugar cane operation and planted the basics or beans and corn (frijoles y maize).
When the Sandinistas lost the election to Violetta Chamorro in 1990, the cooperative system was largely dismantled, Ulysses Rodriguez included. The land was distributed among the coop members who could sell or buy as they wished. The community became known as El Dorado, the entrance to the coop is known at La virgin because of a small, kitchy figure of the virgin that stands in a case on a post at the entrance way.
Carmelo was the manager of the coop, a much respected man, fair and practical. When I met him in 2015, he had lived eight decades of life, through repression and huge upheaval – and finally peace.
Such a simple man.
Comes easily to weeping
He is old and his bones ache.
Eyes gleam hound yellow
Reveal tender heart, brimming
Years drifted, leapt, flew away
Serfdom once was his
Revolution, war, struggle
Beloved son died.
Smiles through tears, moist eyes shine calm
Rocking in his chair
Under zinc roof, he accepts
The blessing of life.