May 29 was a day that had fïlled the members of the Daniel Teller Cooperative with hope. The beans they had just harvested were of high quality. The 35 families in the co-op had each taken home their share of the profit from the sale of 90 head of cattle. The next day, Mother's Day, the corn planting was to begin. That day, however, brought neither corn planting nor Mother's Day celebration. The people were awakened at 4:45 am by the sound of enemy fire. Three hundred contra troops had surrounded the settlement. In the darkness they carne sweeping down from the mountains, firing automatic weapons, tossing hand grenades and launching mortars. There were only 35 men to defend the 200 people of the co-op. Sixteen men and an 8-year-old girl were killed - all by mortar explosions. Twelve others were injured (one woman was not expected to live). Houses went up in flames and with them went the hard-earned money which had been distributed the night before. The school was burned to the ground. The bean harvest was destroyed. The remaining cattle were slaughtered. All that had taken two years to build was destroyed in two hours. Seventeen lives were lost, Sixteen women became widows and thirty-six children became fatherless. This cooperative was formed in 1984 when the people of three neighboring co-ops joined together. 2,200 acres of land had been provided for the co-op by the government, through the agradan reform program. Workers firom the Ministry of Agricultura and volunteer workers from the international community (mostly Swiss) had helped to construct the houses and school. Could the surviving cooperative members rebuild the co-op with what they had left? Some people considered leaving, but they did not know where else they could go and not also be in danger. After the attack, many people walked around listlessly, in shock; many became sick. A site was established for the graveyard. None had previously existed but now there were seventeen companeros to bury. The co-op members finally decided to piek up the pieces and start again. The Ministry of Agriculture supplied the necessary materials for reconstructing the buildings. A brigade of 40 Swiss workers came for two days, to help with the reconstruction. Swiss volunteers moved in with women whose husbands had been killed to help them with the housework and the children during this painful period of transition. Through the tears carne a new, even stronger sense of resolve to work and live cooperatively, with the sense of dignity they had come to know since the revolution. On July 22, as part of a delegation of fourteen North American women on a study tour of Nicaragua, I visited this cooperative. The road leading up to the co-op had to be swept for contra mines, to insure our safety. We witnessed the charred remains of houses, the newly constructed schoolhouse, and the graves of those killed in the attack - including the tiny grave of the eight year old girl. The woman who had lost her daughter provided lunch for us. As the rice and beans were being passed around, I whispered to another woman that I didn't know if I could eat the food of a woman whose child had been killed by my tax dollars. "Eat it; it would be rude not to," I was told. On that day, several members of the cooperative, in addition to providing me with the preceding account of the contra attack, shared with me their thoughts, their hopes, and their prayers. I learned of the people's wish to farm in peace, without the weight of a rifle over one shoulder and the fear of another attack in their hearts. I learned that it is through the conviction that the revolution is making possible a better life, that these people are able to persevere. Further, I learned that the people will never give up the independence they have suffered so long and fought so hard to achieve. One woman gave me the following message to take back to the people of the United States: "Don't send in the U.S. Marines because mothers in the U.S. will suffer just as we do." It is the rage that filis my heart whenever I think back on this day that drives me to share this experience with you. I was welcomed with open arms and open hearts by the very people whose lives were shattered by my tax dollars. I couldn't help but feel personal guilt at being a U.S. citizen. I was both inspired by the will of the people to continue their struggle and struck with a sense of despair, hopelessness, and disgust by what had transpired. This is one of many such acts of terror by the contras, directed toward the people of Nicaragua. This type of incident is not an exception; rather it is a basic strategy of contra warfare to terrorize the people and sabotage their resources. Those who make the decisions in our country teil us that we're fïghting a war to instill democracy in Nicaragua. From my study of Nicaragua, I must conclude that the Nicaraguan people, in many ways, enjoy an even greater degree of democracy than we do in the United States. In Nicaragua, the people actively particípate in governmental policy making and governmental officials are held accountable to the people through regularly scheduled public meetings. Moreover, it is ludicrous to me that we are attempting to "instill democracy" by killing the people and destroying their property. How can we preach the ideáis of democracy and in the same breath sanction the tactics of terror employed by the contras? The people of Nicaragua are coming to know terror under the contras as they have never known it before. We, as U.S. citizens, are morally obligated to stand up and shout our opposition to this killing which our government is financing. We have the blood of many innocent civilians on our hands. We cannot allow this to continue. Ocotal, Nueva Segovia, Nicaragua This w ornan lost two sons in thefight against U. S. backed Dictator Somoza.
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