With many unhappy with the current state of the government and a law against any form of opposition to the legislation, violence has overtaken the streets of Nicaragua. This violence has resulted in more than 400 deaths and a suffering economy which in turn has lead to many people losing their jobs. Numbers of asylum seekers have shot up in 2018 as many Nicaraguan citizens seek safety and jobs.
This summer, I had the privilege to travel to Santa Cruz, Costa Rica. While there, I had the opportunity to interact with some of the locals—one of whom was Franklin, a Nicaraguan citizen who had moved to Costa Rica in June of 2018. Hearing bits and pieces about his story while in Costa Rica was very interesting, and once back in the United States I found that I had questions and wanted to learn more about his experience. Quite frankly, I was scared to talk to him and to write this article because it is a story that is not my own and that can potentially hold a lot of emotion for people. That being said, I believe that there is a lot of value in understanding the experiences and perspectives of others. I am very grateful to Franklin for willingly opening up and telling his story, it has given me perspective on events that before seemed so distant, and in writing this I hope that others can receive the same insight.
“Usually, Nicaragua is a country with opportunities, with enough resources for people to have a good life. What is not possible sometimes is to have access to those opportunities and that lifestyle, not because we do not have the resources, but because of the systems that develop.” Franklin believes that systems have developed in Nicaragua that are stripping people of their freedom, a violation that has no ethical justification. Franklin has also witnessed firsthand the effects of the oppression. Before the events, he was working at an organization in Estelí, Nicaragua that coordinates programs for foreign volunteers. He said the progression was slow: “little by little, from safe to unsafe.”
The protests started in the capital of Managua. At this time he would get calls from coworkers and friends in the U.S. consoling him based on the news, but he dismissed it believing that the events would soon come to an end. However, the protests increasingly spread throughout the country including Estelí. Franklin said that he would be safe as long as he avoided the protestors, but that was not a simple task. “I remember by June I not able to go to work without any problem.” Most of the protests took place on the main roads making any form of travel more difficult. As the violence increased, the organization that Franklin was working for could no longer host international volunteers, and, in turn, had no livelihood in which to support their employees. Anyone without a permanent contract was fired, the U.S. citizens were told by the U.S. embassy to leave Nicaragua, and remaining were the permanent employees from Nicaragua. The organization realized that these people would be unable to maintain a livelihood in the country so they were sent to similar organizations around the world. This is how Franklin ended up in Santa Cruz, Costa Rica, organizing student volunteers like me.
Despite the certain difficulty that comes with this story, Franklin is aware of his fortune. “I am one of the lucky people in hundreds,” he said, recounting stories of his friends and coworkers. He mentioned his relationships with people who have been convicted of participating in the protests or helping those who were injured during protests “and they are not bad people.” He also spoke about the fact that many people in his country have lost their jobs, and few have been able to find a steady source of income since. This is where Franklin realizes that he is fortunate. With family and citizenship in Costa Rica, his process of finding safety and stability held fewer complications, unlike many others.
In fortune or lack thereof, humans all around the world are faced with instability. The complexities of human interaction cause an entanglement of conflicting stories that frequently lead to misunderstanding and dispute. So much value can be found in giving space and listening to these stories that others possess as their own. This again is why I would like to thank Franklin for opening up with his story. “Any pleasure that is robbing or taking other people's opportunities of freedom is a pleasure that should be given up.” Freedom is being taken away from the citizens of Nicaragua, and even though the problem spreads beyond the borders of this Latin American country, recognizing the story of one can give insight into the broader contradictions of our world.