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Portraits

 

 

A serious man smiles

Nicasio, 45, Esquipullas

Nicasio is a planner. He knows what he wants. At the age of eight he had to quit school and work to support the family. It was his duty as the oldest son when his father was killed and the farm was lost. Ever since, he has been saving and buying land at every possible chance. He has much more land than he can actually plant, but he knows this is an investment.
He is a serious man and believes that this is the key to his success. His house is very clean and organised. We take a walk together to see his three young calves. The cows slowly saunter towards him with their calves, shoving their muzzles into his hands. It is a mutual delight. When he is near them, he cannot help touching them nor help the smile that grows across his face, the warmth that lights his eyes. This is his love, his beauty, his dream.

The morning ride to school

Angel, 16, Terrabona

Every morning before dawn Angel gets up, catches and saddles the horse, washes, dresses, and rides to high school an hour away. He is back at sundown. His chores in the morning are to round up his father’s horse, if he is riding today, then gather the milking cows, and milk them. In the evening, to rub down the horses and take them to pasture. Some days he doesn’t make it to school – if the horses or cattle are pasturing too far away, or if his dad needs help.

Not many kids in the village get past primary school, it’s such an expense and a bother, but Mercedes and Reynaldo insist that any child of theirs must continue as long as he or she wants. They hope that two of their five will make it to a high school degree. A lot of unspoken hopes ride on Angel’s shoulders, but he himself is a gentle and shy boy, careful not to voice any ambition at all. No need to add fuel to the fire.

A joy

Antonio, Pancasán

Antonio is a man who clearly enjoys the life he lives, though it is a struggling, energetic sort of joy and a poor, hardworking life. It is a joy that surrounds him and anyone he is with. He likes people and he likes visitors. Antonio likes to talk, maybe because of the many solitary hours spent in the fields since he started working at age eight. He bought his first piece of land when he was eighteen, now he has five acres with corn, beans, organic coffee, a few cattle.

You can see the depth of his feeling for the land when he touches his coffee plants, it is with the tenderness reminiscent of a mother touching the cheek of her child. His well-run farm is a mirror of his joy, but it does not give enough to provide for his family. For money he still hires himself out as day labourer to larger farms nearby.

They are the future

Bertilda (and Rosa), 33, La Dalia

Everyone in the community knows Bertilda. She lives down by the bridge where the buses stop.

During the armed conflict in the 1980s, Bertilda worked as a volunteer at the local infant centre to secure the orphans and the poorest proper nourishment. To Bertilda, this work was very valuable. It was a shock when the government closed the centre in 1990.

The most important experience in her life was the birth of her first child in 1984. For Bertilda and her husband, Cruz Antonio, children are a very big part of life. They have been practicing birth control for the last ten years. All of their four children were planned, and all will go to school. Their youngest child, Rosa Elena is one year old and still gets most of her nutrition directly from her mother. They have a cow, but like most farm families their children rarely drink cow milk - instead, the milk is sent as cheese to the market, to make money.

Bertilda carries Rosa Elena the one-hour walk up the mountain-side to participate in meetings now that she has joined the farmers’ cooperative in the community.

 

Bricks in a field

Francisco ‘Fran’, 37, Muy Muy

Don Fran is building a house for his family this summer. In the shack where they live now, it is hard to tell where the outside ends and the inside begins. The new house will have indoor plumbing, cement floors, and real room partitions instead of a sheet on a string.

“I have to finish it this summer or my wife will go on strike and my daughter will stop speaking to me”. He has postponed this long enough. Every single cent he has earned in the last 12 years has been ploughed back into the land. There was just always another acre that could be bought, or a new bull, or more calves. Now, it is a difficult habit to break. He builds as he runs his farm; he has baked every adobe brick himself rather than use money to buy them.

The new house is sited with a view of his corral, the centrepiece of his successful farm. Don Fran has done well and is proud of his cattle, his planning, his modern techniques. Some of his neighbours have begun calling him “boss”, that’s how often he hires them to help him out in the fields.

He believes in community and puts in time on the board of the farmers’ association. “It doesn’t do to grow too much yourself if you don’t help the rest of the community grow.”

Tomorrow

Christina, 39, Terrabona

Christina is married to the local medicine man yet she is unsure of what her treatment should be. Christina has been diagnosed with breast cancer. She does not know what the future will bring. There are eight children in the house and she is a woman with a strong will and a strong character. Time has made her strong. She must make time stay on her side. She continues her daily routine and keeps her head high. She is proud; she has worked hard to get her family and house to where they are now. Christina will make it through this, too.

 

 

 

 

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