The fields are full of rocks. Miles of stones fences, from Tipitapa up to La Trinidad, the product of hundreds of years of labour, and the fields are still full of rocks. A million years of volcanoes and uplift have created the land, and covered it with ash and, well, rocks.
The result is staggering fertility in a landscape of folds. Mountains that trap the evaporation of two oceans: a tropical rainy season that makes this land greener than England. Valleys where trees grow into giants that host a hundred birds, a troop of monkeys, or shade a square. Every slope is covered with life, except where the sheer vertical upthrust of tortured rock has created curtains of stone, a thousand feet long and hundreds high, flanked by forest or by sky. The lowlands are as rich as the highlands are high, towards either coast.
There is no story, here. The violence of nature and of man disrupts the dreamy building of empire: you must dream to build. And yet, there is dreaming. Granada is almost 500 years old, and Managua, smashed, has been rebuilt. And there are stories, of course. The Spanish secured the western side to safeguard their fleets. The people of Mexico formed an empire, encompassing Central America, after their revolution. Nicaragua broke free, only to be caught in the troubled American dream of hemispheric dominance (that has lingered ever since). In less than a month, construction is set to start on a new canal to rival Panama’s, as Nicaragua once again struggles to wake to its own dream.
To travel here is to cross centuries in a day. When we arrive at the Angel’s Door a tent is being erected in the street. A rumour arises that this is to celebrate a wedding, and we populate the rooms already reserved with wedding guests, and even determine which room is to be the bridal suite. This is reinforced by overhearing a group of Germans arriving, and someone in the party being given it. But it is not a wedding. Instead, it is a party for the Festival of the Virgin Mary. The street outside the the hotel is fenced in and ticketed, and the people up and down the street sit on their front steps to hear techno from the 80’s. You must buy tickets to enter, so a woman in a wheelchair watches from outside with her husband. Young men in cowboy hats are thrown by the electric bull. There is no dancing, though tents are set up for it in front of the bandstand, itself flanked by more speakers than the average rock concert. Meanwhile, three blocks up and two to the right, a crowd of people pass by the restaurant where we and the Germans dine. The crowd is following the Queen of Heaven through the cobbled streets. David and I walk with them for a few blocks, in silence, blessing those streets and the people that live on them.
As we retreat from the border, we talk about the story, of our trip, and of the Lending Journey. The many lives it has touched and will continue to touch, helping women write the stories of their children. What house did we live in, then? Did we go to that school? What kinds of food did we eat? Where is my dad? What will happen next?
That’s also what we talked about: what will happen next? We are excited by the dreams that we are sharing, built by us and mostly by the people of Nicaragua. Where can we make it possible, with others of the Americas, to go? The ride continues.
Today we visit Monte Fresco, where the goal is meet potential borrowers from that village, and try to understand how we work with a community as a whole.
And some dream elements endure. When we arrived at the hotel last night, guess who arrived a few moments later?