There is so much poverty here. It’s hard to put into words but some of the campesinos literally dress in rags, the cloth so threadbare that it can’t possibly offer much protection from the elements. They eat just a bowl of beans and a few tortillas and they have to work very, very hard just for that. I’m sure that in the U.S., we’d call their houses shacks. Many are put together with scavenged building materials from bombed or demolished sites and do not have indoor plumbing. Outhouses are common. On top of all this, the country is at war and their kids are being sent off to fight. How is it that they don’t break? People smile through it. Walk by any house in Esteli and you can hear people singing at the top of their lungs while doing their chores.
Last night, we went to a party for Francie’s friend, Paco. It was very interesting to see how politically aware everyone is. The party consisted of a lot of former combatientes and others who at some point were integrated in the struggle. Everyone sat around discussing internal and external affairs and, in particular, the rights of women and their participation in the revolution. I've never been to a party like that. It was so odd to hear the women telling the men exactly what they were thinking and what needed to be done to promote equal opportunity. Who talks like that at a party? In L.A., a party involves getting dressed up, getting drunk, and maybe finding someone to have sex with. Meaningful talk is optional.
I like to hear the men and women refer to each other as compañero and compañera or even the shortened compa. The word can mean partner or companion; it’s so much sweeter than calling someone “honey” or “baby.” I’d much rather be an equal partner and companion than sweet or childlike.
There was no dancing at the party, no games, no chips or dip. A compañera brought a bottle of homemade rum and I took polite sips of what I suspected was really paint thinner. Everyone drank in moderation and the general mood seemed to indicate that discussion was the best entertainment. People exchanged passionate, sometimes opposing viewpoints. They listened, reflected, and offered thoughtful responses. Everyone was engaged and once again I had the feeling that people in this country were somehow more alive than people in the U.S. It made me sad for my country, where people get bored at parties and we often feel the need to drink before we can talk in a social setting and even then, we rarely say anything that we feel this passionately about. It seems like a heated discussion in the U.S. is considered impolite; here, it’s considered stimulating.