Pipe Bomb for the Soul is a 2015 book release, based on Alice Bag's 1986 Nicaraguan diaries. Pipe Bomb for the Soul will be posted in installments beginning May 1, 2015. Pipe Bomb for the Soul artwork copyright Cristy C. Road, 2015.
I went to the school for a few hours this morning. I tried to hang back and not get in the way of the literacy teacher. As the students master the beginning levels of reading they are expected to help others. This strengthens their own learning and creates a feeling of camaraderie. It also takes the pressure off the teacher because the students become co-teachers.
I listened to a couple of young girls who wanted to read to me and then we discussed the reading. They enjoyed telling me about the history of their country and they brought it all to life by mixing in their personal anecdotes.
"You're lucky to be in Esteli. Almost everyone here fought in the revolution."
"And if you didn't fight, someone in your family did,” her friend agreed. "Esteli played a big part in helping to overthrow Somoza."
They had stories of moms, dads, aunts and uncles joining the guerrillas or older siblings joining the literacy brigades.
When I went home for lunch, I talked to Carelia about my discussion with the young girls and she told me about her own days in the literacy brigade.
“We were, and still are fighting a war against ignorance,” she explained. “All of Nicaragua is a classroom – there are people learning new things everywhere and people are expected to help without necessarily picking up a rifle.”
After a training session, Carelia was sent out to the countryside to teach farmers and their families to read.
“It was hard for me at first, really hard, probably like it is for you coming here. Some places I went to didn’t even have an outhouse or running water. We had to squat behind a tree and use leaves to wipe ourselves.” I thought of how strange I had felt the first time I had to use newspaper instead of toilet paper.
“It was difficult, but it gave us a chance to see how people live in the mountains and I’m glad I did it,” Carelia said.
"They even sent brigadistas out to Bluefields on the Atlantic coast. That part of the country is very distant from the rest of Nicaragua. Traditionally, they've been ignored by politicians. Do you know anything about Bluefields?"
"No, but I'd never heard of Esteli before I got here."
"The story goes that hundreds of years ago, a Portuguese ship filled with African slaves crashed on the eastern Atlantic shore. The slavers attempted to save some of their precious cargo, but the slaves overtook them and freed themselves, populating what is now Bluefields. The thing is, our cultures are very different and nobody has really tried to unify the Atlantic and Pacific coast as a nation. The government is hoping that by sending the brigadistas out to Bluefields there will be valuable cultural exchanges in addition to increased literacy."
"Is it working?"
"It's too soon to tell,” Carelia said. Carelia told me that the brigadistas were encouraged to keep a diary during their time on the campaign to keep track of new experiences, new ideas, and questions that might arise. The diary was a learning tool for the volunteer teachers. Their learning was considered equally important to that of the literacy students.
Official Sandinista Literacy campaign goals
•to eradicate illiteracy
•to encourage an integration and understanding between Nicaraguans of different classes and backgrounds
•to increase political awareness
•to nurture attitudes and skills related to creativity, production, co-operation, discipline, and analytical thinking
•to support national cohesion and consensus
•to strengthen the channels for economic and political participation