2007 Teen Delegation to Nicaragua
August 1st, 2007
July 2007 Teen Delegation to Nicaragua
What a wonderful, exciting, eye-opening two weeks! 19 teenagers and three adults visited Nicaragua July 14-27, 2007 with Witness for Peace. While there we learned about US involvement in Nicaragua's history, we met the man who negotiated the Central American Free Trade Agreement- CAFTA, visited a Taiwanese owned sweat shop which sells cloths to the US market, met with sweatshop workers and union organizers who are being threatened with death for daring to organize a union. We stayed with families in a working class neighborhood and went with our families to celebrate July 19th the 28th Anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution. The Nicaraguan families made us most welcome sharing the best that they had with us - their beds, their wonderful food and their stories. We traveled northeast to the beautiful coffee producing area called Matagalpa and once again stayed with families in a rural cooperative called Ramon Garcia. We swam in the river and heard stories of how these people built their homes, began planting organic crops of beans, corn, vegetables and fruit. How they worked to bring potable water to the community as well as electricity. Besides building a beautiful primary school they also built a community center where Daysi Granados led an interfaith service on Sunday afternoon.
They have faced many challenges over the years including an attempt by the former large landowner to take the land from them. Union Fenosa, a Spanish corporation also took over their electrical system and now charges them for power. What an example these strong, courageous people are. We had a great time playing with the children, dancing in the community center, riding a horse and visiting their farms.
We met with landless farmers who work picking coffee on a US owned coffee farm and earn very little for their ten hours a day of hard labor. The women in the sweatshops earn about $2.00 a day which is not enough to feed their families. We also learned about the difference between fair trade that cuts out the middlemen and free trade that exploits the workers. Since l990, the conservative governments of Violeta Chamorro, Presidents Aleman and Bolanos have invested in new roads and traffic circles but have cut funds for education, health care and credit for small farmers. It is very difficult to see how Nicaragua can compete with countries like Costa Rica that did not endure a US supported war and has invested in education, health care and credit for small farmers.
Besides meeting with small farmers and sweatshop workers, we met with the American Chamber of Commerce, and the head of Las Mercedes Free Trade Zone. We returned home changed and determined to work to stop Fast Track Authority which is due to come up for a vote in the US Congress in the next few months. The way we see the world has changed. We had a wonderful time and made time to dance. We spent a day at the Laguna de Apoyo, a beautiful volcanic lake, where we spent our last day planning our work back here in the United States and processing all we had seen and heard during our visit. We now have 19 new change agents!
This year's teen delegates will go to Washington, DC October 11 and 12th to meet with our US Representatives and US Senators to tell them what we have seen and heard and to urge a change in US policy towards Nicaragua from support of Free Trade which impoverishes people to Fair Trade which would enrich both factory works and small farmers.
Ethan Scheldorf did a great job as photographer! See Ethan's photos at his facebook site. Also last night the NC teens from the Teen Delegation met at Vicki and Andorra's home. We had a great time. Vicki and Andorra made a marvelous DVD with music of our delegation. It really captures the fun and laughter as well as the beauty of the Nicaraguan people. It would be a great way to share with others what we saw and heard in Nicaragua. Be sure and recruit for next years teen delegation. See you in Wash. DC October 11-13 for our reunion. Much love to each of you.
Gail Phares August 2007