Nicaragua, From Guerrilla Sanctuary to Migratory Springboard for Cubans

Augusto César Sandino International Airport, in Managua, Nicaragua. (Twitter/@NonoBaBri)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 11 April 2022 —  In my primary school there was a girl who bragged that her father was on a mission in Nicaragua. She appeared one day with a sophisticated bag to carry her snack and on another  day with some brightly colored hair clips that the military adviser had sent her from Managua. In my child’s mind, that country was a place of olive-green uniforms and bustling markets, the destination of revolutionaries chosen to fight and buy trinkets.

The father of that girl returned a couple of years later loaded with suitcases and boxes. They moved to a more affluent neighborhood and one day I saw him on television during a medal ceremony. That man probably did not see a combat by a long shot, but he introduced himself saying “I was on a mission in Nicaragua” and it was more than enough to open doors and dazzle those who had never left the Island.

The years passed and this week I learned that the grandson of that “proletarian internationalist” has just left Cuba through the Nicaraguan route. Unlike his grandfather, the young man had to amass dollar after dollar to pay the high sum that they now ask for a ticket to “the country of volcanoes.” He spent a couple of nights in a hotel and the next morning the coyote was waiting for him to guide him on the first leg of his route north.

He stopped only at a market in Managua to buy some food and a phone card, he avoided anyone in uniformed as much as he could, and when he crossed the border with Honduras he wrote to his mother: “first step achieved.” The land that provoked so many anecdotes, which he heard at the family table, was only a springboard to get closer to his dream of living in the United States. The nation that his grandfather proudly pointed out on a map and that the troubadours mentioned in their combative lyrics, barely passed through the retina of the young man obsessed with other latitudes.

In about 40 years the meaning of the name Nicaragua took a 360 degree turn in Cuba. If in the 1970s and 1980s that country seemed like the comrade that, in this hemisphere, was going to follow with its own imprint the footprint traced by the Cuban model, today it is seen as a country of passage from which it is necessary to leave at full speed. Daniel Ortega, then painted by official propaganda as a progressive and rebellious young man, is now a dandruff-covered dictator from whom his own citizens are fleeing.

“The borders kiss each other and start burning,” a Cuban singer-songwriter repeated at the time. And yes, they continue kissing but not to expand any revolutionary flame, nor for the North American “eagle” to take flight elsewhere, but to put land between Cubans and the country where they were born but in which they do not see themselves growing or aging.

Nicaragua has become synonymous with flight. For the grandchildren of those Cuban soldiers who accumulated merits and merchandise in Managua, the name of Augusto César Sandino is only that of the airport where they land after escaping from this Island.


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