Notebooks from a trampfest. Travel tips, tales and images, online since 2006.

Nicaraguan Snapshots, 1990-1999 – Notebook and Image Gallery

I was asked a few days ago by someone who contacted me via my Nicaragua Canal updates page if I had any photos for publication available from Nicaragua; the answer unfortunately is no. At least not at the moment.

I visited Nicaragua five times during the 1990s, a couple of those for extended periods, and have plenty of images on slides and film available. But those are currently about 5,000 miles and some nine months away; these are the only scanned images I have at the moment, all culled from my dormant flickr account, and finally given a permanent home here. They’re divided into three sections:

  • images from the municipality of Teustepe, a community about 75km northeast of Managua that I got to know fairly well when I coordinated a sister city organization linking it with Athens, Ohio. The photo at top is Teustepe’s Primary school, taken in February 1990.
  • the second group are images from the northwestern town of Posoltega taken in April 1999, about six months after storms swept in by Hurricane Mitch devastated the area.
  • and the third a small hodgepodge including a selfie before the word was a thing.

All are low resolution scans of either slides or prints; most had seen better days. Enjoy!

Teustepe

Afternoon shadows, Teustepe, February 1990.

Vendor taking a break during a baseball game at Teustepe stadium. February 1994.

The little boy didn’t seem to mind playing with dried cow dung. Rapid deforestation and clearcutting here, primarily for grazing, left this area among the driest area in the country. Teustepe, February 1990.

Teustepe Police Department, high noon.  As two of the gentlemen worked on the jeep, I asked if I could take a photo. The other two quickly joined to be in the picture. They were playing around with that jeep for nearly three weeks but eventually they did get it to run. Teustepe, 10 February 1994.

Jimmy Sosa. I met Jimmy during my second visit to Teustepe, in 1992, and he immediately stood out from the dozens of kids who would regularly flock to the place where we were staying. Everybody wanted us to give them something, except for Jimmy.

He was content simply listening to stories, asking questions, and telling stories. He loved to share an animated tale about how his father, a die-hard Sandinista, was killed by a long-time friend when the two were on opposite sides of the war just prior to the overthrow of the Samoza dictatorship in July 1979.

This is taken in front of his house, Teustepe, Nicaragua, February 1994.

At a community meeting just outside town. February 1994.

Humberto Gonzales on his farm, the first entirely self-sustaining farm in the area. He uses/used manure to power his generators. Teustepe, Nicaragua, 11 February 1994

Humberto’s kids at home, February 1994.

Emergency room in Teustepe’s health center, February 1990.

A little more than two years after taking this, I was laying on that hard wooden slab, desperately waiting for a pain reliever. The day before, a hammock I was dozing in collapsed, dropping me about five feet onto a concrete floor. The next morning everything hurt –really really bad.

As I waited, a little boy, maybe 7 or 8 years old, was brought in. He fell off of a pick-up truck, and had dirt and gravel embedded in his head. He was put on a wooden slab next to mine, face down, with his head over a little garbage can. A doctor arrived and proceeded to scrape the stuff out of his head with a scalpel. No anesthetic. Every scream from that little boy reverberated through my body. Eventually I got my pain killer, administered through the biggest needle I’ve ever seen. July 1992.

I think I really scared the second kid from the right. Scan of a print with pushpin holes. Teustepe, February 1994.

Myriam Largaespada de Oliva, first woman mayor of Teustepe, in her office at the Alcaldia (Municipal Hall). The portrait on the wall is of then Nicaraguan president, Violetta Chamorro, the first woman elected as a head of government in Latin America. Teustepe, Nicaragua, 02-July 1992. (Bad scan of a mediocre print of a slide).

Store owner and his daughter, 23 February 1990.

Tortilla salesman, February 1994. I returned five months later, tracked him down and gave him a copy of this print.

Typically parched. February 1990.

In the countryside some 10 kilometers from Teustepe. What struck me most about this scene was that it could have been taken in some pockets of Appalachia. February 1990.

Donald Cordoba, one of the first friends I met during my first visit in 1990. At 15, Donald was jailed by Somoza’s US-armed and trained National Guard, had his finger nails torn off and was branded. A powerful, passionate speaker, and ardent Sandinista. At his home in Boaco, Nicaragua, Feb 1994.

Aftermath of Hurricane Mitch – April 1999

On 30-Oct 1998, torrential rains brought in by Hurricane Mitch filled the Casitas volcano, forcing the slope, pictured in several of the images, to collapse. It produced a massive river of mud more than a kilometer wide that swept through the area, killing nearly 3,000 people immediately, taking out several villages and smaller settlements, and displacing several thousand more. Some survivors, stuck in the mud for several days, had limbs amputated. These were taken six months later. Normalcy was still a long way off.

Dry river carved by the river of mud. Casitas in the background.

A makeshift refugee camp.

At the refugee camp.

At the refugee camp.

Casitas without its top.

A family at a refugee camp near Posoltega.

In the storage center at the refugee camp.

Posoltega Mayor Felicita Zeledon Rodriguez. Recently (December 2014) deceased.

At Posoltega City Hall.

Barren landscape.

Mudslide aftermath.

Where mud flowed.

A building destroyed by the mudslide.

Sisters playing at a refugee camp.

Bulletin board at city hall.

Camp leader.

And a closing mix

Dugout canoe on Ometepe Island. I walked by these gentleman early in the morning as they began carving out the tree. When we passed by again in late afternoon, they were nearly finished. Near Balgue, Ometepe Island, Lake Nicaragua, 17 February 1994

Student demonstrators, Managua, April 1999. He’s holding a ‘mortero’, kind of like a homemade M-80 launcher. Scan of a slide. More about this image is here.

Monument for the victory over Somoza. Made from melted AK-47s. Managua, February 1994.

Remains of the old Managua cathedral.

Along with much of central Managua, the cathedral was destroyed in the December 1972 earthquake which took upwards of 20,000 lives, and left 3/4s of the city’s population, then about 400,000, homeless. Through the newly-formed National Emergency Committee, Somoza, the last dictator of the Somoza dynasty which had ruled since 1936 and head of the ruthless National Guard, personally administered the tens of millions of dollars of international relief aid. Predictably, much of it simply vanished, creating one of the first major upsurges of popular support for the insurgent FSLN (Sandinista) guerrillas.

Roberto Clemente, the first Hispanic American elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame, died in a plane crash on 31-Dec 1972, while en route to Managua to personally deliver and guarantee that relief reached those who needed it. February 1994.

And finally, here’s me with Carlos Fonseca, a co-founder of the Sandinistas and martyr of the revolution. In front of the Palacio Nacional, Managua, February 1994

 

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  1. lisa says

    Even though most of the images did not load here at Casa Loca, I look forward to seeing them later today when I am in town. I can already visualize a future series f photos when you return to those areas and show how they’ve changed.

    I knew someone who broke his back when a hammock broke and dumped him on an equally-hard concrete floor. I wonder how many people are hurt by hammocks that grow weak and weary from the tropical climate and eventually dump an unsuspecting human to the ground?

    Thanks so much for scouting the archives and presenting these Nica snapshots

    Z

    1. Bob R says

      Glad you enjoyed, Z. Broken back from a hammock fall? Yikes. I guess now I can see how that can happen. I merely suffered from some intense internal pain. I did learn my lesson: from then on, anytime I’ve strung up a hammock, I made sure that any potential fall would be a VERY short one.

  2. Anonymous says

    Thanks for sharing your memories. It takes some time to put it all together and tell a story from the past.

    1. Bob R says

      Thanks – very glad you enjoyed. This wasn’t quite a complete story, more of a notebook. Just like this blog. 🙂

  3. Lorena says

    Bob, I found you ‘by accident’ I was looking for pic from Teustepe. I am from Teustepe living in Virginia, US. A very long journey! The pictures you posted brought me memories of my childhood, very happy memories. I remember walking those dry and sandy old roads with my bare feet in the heat of the summer. The square was a rocky, sandy and windy empty space and finding a single weed was a task. Very touching pictures. THANK YOU!

    1. Bob R says

      Hi Lorena – so glad you were able to find this post and photos. When did you move from Teustepe? I visited several times during the 1990s. Maybe I have some photos of you as well. 🙂

  4. Anonymous says

    Hello Bob its me jimmy soza the man you once met in teustepe, I am still here and work for educational system.
    I keep on telling my students those day when I used to sell tortilla and still tell to my kids how difficult my life was.
    its nice to know about you, come to teustepe again

    1. Bob R says

      Jimmy! It is so good to hear from you. Very happy to hear that things are well — I’m not surprised that you wound up becoming a teacher. You seemed to be a natural for that job. Are you living in Teustepe? Or nearby? How is the rest of your family? Your sister?

      I’d love to visit again one day, and I hope to. I was planning to when I was traveling north through South and Central America in 2013, but got sick and had to skip parts of Central America.

      I often think of my many visits to Teustepe and Nicaragua. Those were very important and meaningful trips and times for me. I’m sure I’ll visit again one day. Let’s keep in touch. Cheers!

Thoughts?

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