“Together we’re a volcano... but we had forgotten it”
The author of this piece is using a pseudonym.
She wrote it at the three-month mark of April’s rebellion.
In her words, her reflections, we recognize the thoughts and feelings
of the hundreds and thousands of young women and men
who began this unstoppable citizens’ insurrection.
If someone had told me six months ago that young Nicaraguans would be leading a citizens’ insurrection against Daniel Ortega’s tyranny today, I would surely have replied that holding out that kind of hope was some kind of bad joke. Of course, I would have said that only after laughing for a while. Ironic laughter, naturally, because I really wouldn’t have considered it funny.
We grew up in
the blink of an eye
I have to be honest. I didn’t expect my generation to be willing to fight and die for our homeland, perhaps because I didn’t expect it from myself. And I definitely never harbored any illusions that one day we would have the courage. I lived with a lot of resentment toward both my peers and myself because we seemed incapable of reacting in the face of so much evil from a megalomaniac. But while it’s true that we’ve changed—none of us is the same as three months ago—it’s also fair to say that there was always a flicker of bravery within us. We just didn’t know it. Or maybe we did, but had decided to ignore it.
Time was taking its course in Nicaragua and we, Nicaraguan millennials, stayed on the sidelines, muddling through what we called “problems” with our earphones firmly stuck in our ears, reading a book to escape reality, ignoring the world and completely engrossed in our affairs. Although at the time these seemed vital to us, today we find them barely significant. And now, what sense is there to a thesis project when we’re entrenched in a barricade, dodging bullets and stanching the wound of a compañero who’s dying in our arms? How important can a debate with a professor be, when a stranger helps you to your feet and urges you to run for your life? What relevance is there in any university problem, when you get up out of your seat to tell a corrupt President that the people demand he resign?
Many things become banal when you find yourself locked in a church to protect your life, while a group of murderers are waiting on the other side to kill you. Or when you’re on the phone with your loathsome classmate who has decided to tell you goodbye and admit he was actually always fond of you, because at any moment he may be shot. In the blink of an eye our priorities shifted 180 degrees. In the blink of any eye we finally grew up.
This nest of little ants...
Sometimes I wonder if one day we’ll be able to return to a classroom and listen to the lesson normally, behaving like the simple students we really are. This image feels so far away right now, if not impossible.
We were so blind, letting ourselves be dragged along by the wave of indifference that had swept up many young people in these days of moral crisis. Without realizing it, we found ourselves taking part in the hegemonic thinking and the Machiavellian scheme orchestrated by the dictator and his consort, who planned to convert us into yet more puppets for their stage.
Our apparent denial in the face of the silent suffering that had settled over our people led the couple to believe that we wouldn’t put up any fight against their plans. They never imagined that sooner or later this nest of little ants, which they believed was forever sealed off, would start to escape their grasp. We didn’t think so, either. But we did it.
We owe ourselves an apology
Today as young people we owe ourselves an apology because we considered ourselves unable to do what up until recently we had only read about in books. We believed we would never represent a change for our country, as others had done years before.
People think that as young Nicaraguans we’re trying to show our worth to the world these days. I think they’re wrong. The only people we’re trying to convince of our perseverance and determination, by taking action against the injustice that runs through our land, are ourselves. And only when your life and body are at risk do you learn about yourself and what you’re willing to do.
Why not recognize it? Unwittingly, we gave our country back its dignity, a country that without realizing it had become accustomed to peace with a gag tied on by a nationless traitor.
We won’t close our eyes again
Monsignor Silvio Báez wasn’t far off the mark when on April 20 he called us “Nicaragua’s moral reserve.” We were unaware of the fire running through our veins, a fire that had already been channeled in multiple beautiful ways in prior years given the passion with which we were getting used to dreaming. Dreaming had become impossible for Nicaraguans a long, long time ago. But we were born with this charming determination and this capacity for dreaming that has led us to die in the name of freedom and won’t let us live as slaves.
Together we are a volcano, but we had forgotten. The dictator’s yoke had to return from the past and appear before our eyes to remind us who we were and what we must do. The mistakes we may have made before now no longer blur our vision. For all that we were slumbering a few months ago, we’ve now opened our eyes and they won’t be shut again. The Indio Maíz Reserve fire burst out of our hearts the day they mercilessly attacked our grandparents, the day they snatched away what little decency their pensions allowed them. The tyrants burned our land, the fruit of our effort and our freedom. But they forgot that fire spreads easily.
Our struggle will be honorable
Now, an intransigent Daniel Ortega—who never expected such a civic uprising led by a bunch of “brats”—plans to eliminate us the only way he knows, which is nothing short of war. The presumptuous dictator has only envisioned one way to get everything he has wanted in life: violence and guns. He does it for the simple reason that he never allowed himself to think of anything that wasn’t ruling over people. People who, in his mind, belong to him.
How foolish and ignorant of him. But he doesn’t deceive anyone. Daniel Ortega hates us young people, because we are everything he could never be. We haven’t needed armies to destabilize his government. We haven’t used either crossbows or AK-47s to slow his momentum. We haven’t tossed tear gas inside his mansion to rob those inside of the little air left in their lungs.
Our only weapon has been our brains. That’s why they shoot directly at our heads. But he’s wrong if he thinks this is the way to destroy our unwavering strength. We’re also an army. Not a force of armed men, but an army of brave and intelligent young people who won’t need a war to dethrone the strongman, the foiled guerrillero who insists on living his days of false glory by killing innocent people.
We won’t dirty our hands, not even with his blood. Sun Tzu said that the supreme art of war consists of subduing your enemy without combat. And that is how we’ll do it. Because we’re more and better than he and our struggle will be honorable.
The new Nicaragua we’ll build
Defeating the oppressor is just the first step. A new Nicaragua is ready to be born, where we must all work together, especially young people. The advice of our parents and grandparents will help us provide a better future for our children and for their children after them.
We deserve to live in a country where no one is judged or slandered for thinking for him or herself. We will ensure that anyone can feel free to protest something they disagree with. We need to build a society in which we’re encouraged from childhood to think and question, to speculate and ruminate on what goes on around us, beyond what we are taught in school.
Above all, it’s necessary to build a country where each person has the right to display his or her talents, where we all have the same opportunities for growth regardless of political or religious ideology. Today this country demands justice, democracy and freedom. And in the new Nicaragua that we will build, neither justice nor democracy nor freedom shall go lacking.
Yes, it’s true. This struggle caught us completely off guard, especially we young people who never imagined an opportunity for change like this one. In April we had already decided what we wanted to do with our lives; we had already chosen our plans and mapped out our pathways. Nonetheless our homeland stepped out in front of us, stopping us, pleading with us to leave behind our indifference in the face of injustice. And as if in birth, this formidable being who lived unseen within us pushed forward from inside and, surprisingly, emerged shouting Enough! You’ll go no further! You’ll bring us down no more!
We are not alone,
a whole people is with us
Today we’re still students, unexperienced young people. We stumble, improvising our first steps, learning to fly over a chasm.
But we’re not alone. We have a whole people behind us, backing us up, protecting us, teaching us, warning us, gathered around the path we will forge for them. We have fire in our veins, inherited from our ancestors, and no one will ever stop us. We learned from the past. We’ll create a better future because that is what our land deserves. It’s what Nicaragua has always deserved. We were born in a beautiful country that deserves a people who love it. And love in these circumstances means protection, bravery, intelligence, justice, equality, democracy, humanity.
We’ll be shrewd and humble
This is just the beginning of a long struggle. But we will succeed because Nicaraguan youth has no history of rising up only to fall again. We have to be stronger and cleverer than we have been up to now. We must strengthen our defenses, sharpen our skills, polish this fearfully sharp weapon we carry above our shoulders and not skimp in the effort.
We must also be humble, because defending the homeland is everyone’s job. In the process we must not be deified or praised, much less fawned over. What those willing to die for their homeland need is respect, nothing more. What matters isn’t the effort, but the results of those efforts. May the struggle remain unblemished by errors of the past. May no one be revered for doing his or her job. The struggle belongs to a whole people, not an elite few. So it has always been and so it always will be.
Let’s prepare ourselves for
the Nicaragua we are birthing
There is still much to be done and a lot of ground to cover. But I take strength from the idea that for the first time my generation can clearly be seen as undeniably decisive. I’m a part of it and if everyone feels in their heart of hearts what I feel, I’m sure I have nothing to fear. Yes, my life is in my homeland’s hands now, along with the lives of my compatriots, especially of young people like me.
We will bring change, no doubt about it, without stopping to consider who will live to see it or not. Nicaragua will be reborn from the ashes and will flourish thanks to her children’s efforts. Nicaragua will be great as never before. But for this to happen we must work hard and never fall back into indifference toward our reality.
We will study, read, research, travel, explore, learn and enjoy the journey. Let us not stop for anything. Let’s restore the radiance of yesteryear to our beloved homeland. Let’s bring back the former values, updating them with the new, and ensure that they never disappear. Let us prepare ourselves to take a decisive role in this new Nicaragua to which we soon will give birth.
We won’t be satisfied
with toppling the dictator
We won’t be satisfied with toppling the dictator. Let’s broaden our vision, looking beyond what can be expected. Let’s make bold plans for our people and never disappoint one another or divide such a beautiful cause. Let’s work hard to be worthy of the role the homeland has conferred on us, and not rest until we see the fruit of our labor.
Let’s also not fool ourselves. We won’t have won on the day Daniel Ortega is no longer President of Nicaragua. Our victory won’t be seen until that day when we no longer see emaciated children selling in the streets, when all Nicaraguans dare to dream and fight for their dreams, when there are no longer people dying of hunger, when employment is high, when all children and youth attend school without exception, when the minimum wage is respectable for all workers, when we can receive the care we deserve in a hospital, when prisoners in jails have decent conditions, when humanity is more important than our differences, when a ruler is no longer afraid his people are smarter than he: that day when Nicaragua has the grandeur she deserves. Until that day, our struggle will continue. And until that day, we must remain unshakeable.
Let us not allow our youth to be shunted aside again. Let’s create political discussion groups, share our different ways of thinking, talk about history and share our knowledge. Let’s read about new models of development. Let’s not skimp on research. Let’s learn together, keeping at bay the darkness of ignorance that threatens to fall again over our youth.
Let’s ready the ground for those yet to come and prepare ourselves to take leadership roles in the new society we will build. Let us never give up. Let us never again allow them to blind us, trick us and convince us that we’re worthless, and so resign ourselves to crumbs. Let us be what this people is demanding.
A few months ago I was talking with someone I love dearly about our country’s situation. I was bothered and I disagreed with what Nicaragua could expect if Daniel Ortega remained in power, because I couldn’t fathom what he’s doing to our people.
Then this person told me that what Nicaragua needed were young people who were brave and smart enough to dethrone Daniel once and for all, youth who would remind him what happens to dictators who try to enslave the Nicaraguan people. A generation who would know their past and have a clear vision of the future. Nicaragua, I was told, needs young people with the guts to change her. I think we—my generation—will be those young people.
Charlotte Arce is a litrature major in UNAN-Managua. Text published in the August 2018 edition of the Nicaraguan digital magazine Cultura libre – tu voz vale.