Marina Fleites, Nicaragua —
This was my first time celebrating the Fourth of July outside of the United States. It was a strange feeling, and we spent it with Denise, the Peace Corps volunteer who trained us, Dolly, a recently retired expat that just moved to Leon, and the PGL director and his wife, who are British so that was uncommon for a Fourth of July celebration. We had a great time at the beach, but celebrating the United States’ independence only made me think more about being an American here in Nicaragua.
In some of my other blog posts I’ve mentioned some of the assumptions made about Americans, or some of anti-United States undertones I’ve picked up over the past five weeks. By anti-United States I mean in history, because the United States government supported a dictatorial dynasty of Somozas in Nicaragua until the guerilla warfare of the Sandinistas was able to overthrow it, and before that the United States marines occupied Nicaragua, so there is an understandable tension. And, oddly enough, one teacher pointed out that my name, Marina, means marines in Spanish. I have never felt in danger for being from the United States, or at all since I’ve gotten here.
That being said, people have had different reactions when they find out where I am from. Most reactions have been curious, asking questions about life in the United States. The only negative reaction we have had in five weeks here was when we met a teacher from another school. He asked where we were from, we said the United States, and he rolled his eyes then did not acknowledge us the rest of the night.
Thinking through it now, based on my surroundings it seems a bit odd that we’ve only had that one negative reaction. In the center of town, the most touristy section, “BUSH GENOCIDA” (Bush Genocide) is graffitied in huge letters on the front of the Museum of the Revolution, a mural near the university depicts a red white and blue serpent labeled “CIA” wreaking havoc, and a brightly colored mural 20 feet from the tourist center displays Uncle Sam being crushed under the foot of Sandino, the man who fought the U.S. marine occupation and became the namesake of the revolutionary party that overthrew Somoza.
When we visited the Museum of the Revolution a few weeks ago, the guide felt the urge to preface every negative comment about the United States (referring to it as the Empire) with a long winded speech about how people just use words sometimes that imply bad things but really they aren’t as if to make sure we didn’t feel offended by the way our country was talked about, or even to partially discredit any offensive comments. We found it interesting because we both knew the history and weren’t offended, but we weren’t sure how other Americans would react. Especially considering how much of a lack there is in the education of U.S.-Latin American history in American schools.
Other than that one negative reaction, Nicaraguans have been kind and accepting with us, because the culture is so hospitable and I think partially because we put a lot of effort into speaking Spanish and trying our best to blend in. But at the same time it has been odd seeing murals like that around Leon. By no means do I agree with the U.S.’s military invasions in Latin America, but I’ve also never been anywhere with such conspicuous anti-American art or history, so it has taken some getting used to. It’s strange trying to reconcile my identity as an American with Nicaraguan history, even though most of my family was not even in the United States when much of this history took place.