As I was walking down the street and saw one of the vendors set up ahead I had a craving for Jocotes, a grape sized mango-ish fruit. I approached and found that there were none so I figured that the next vendor would have them. Again there were none and each one that I passed was without the fruit I craved. I was confused that I unable to procure this fruit that in my recent memory had been so pervasive you couldn’t take step without seeing a discarded pit. Once I reached work I asked the girls where I could go to fulfill my craving and they laughed. “10 months into the future” was their response. I was immediately overcome with a feeling of “duh” which was followed by the feeling of utter American ignorance. In an effort to make myself appear less foolish I tried to explain to them that the seasonality of a fruit or vegetable doesn’t necessarily affect the availability of a product. They were shocked and found it hard to understand that I could eat an avocado or strawberry in the dead of winter or in high summer. Trying to explain how this can be to my Nicaraguan peers only deepened my feelings of foolishness and to it added the feelings of guilt and privilege.
In this country where they produce great coffee, incredible handicrafts, amazing fruits and vegetables, yet they consume Presto instant coffee, Papitas chips and covet all things American. I find it very sad to think that my home country’s overwhelming demands for products that we ourselves are incapable of producing leaves another country unhealthy and to an extent unable to fully indulge in and appreciate what their land provides them. They have resorted to establishing Zonas Francas (Free Trade Zones) throughout the Managua area, which are meant to draw foreign investors into the country to set up shop tax-free. Ideally Nicaragua benefits because it provides work, which raises the standards of living. In reality these zones are not bound by laws and are a notorious for violating workers rights and paying very minimal wages, so Nicaraguans don’t gain much from their presence only a lowered unemployment rate. Two of my family members have worked in the Zona Francas and continue to today.
In the North it’s a different type of exploitation because it is mostly farmland. Workers rights violations compounded by the exposure to toxic pesticides and contaminated drinking water and the many developmental and health issues that result. Demetrio, the security guard who lives at the foundation, grew up in Matagalpa. When he eats he finishes within a minute. My coworker tells me this is response to having worked as a campesino (farm worker) where his boss would give them one minute for all meals and what they didn’t finish was taken from them. Its hard for me remember why I wouldn’t eat a banana with a brown spot not just from hearing the experience of Demetrio but because naturally banana’s are not blemish free. When I go to the markets here I get to see what food really looks like and generally it’s not pretty but this is the market and this food can and will be eaten.