Street Vendors in Nicaragua’s “Blue and White” Rebellion
Hundreds of Managua street vendors discovered that the protests were an opportunity to earn some money. Among them was Luis Manuel Ortiz, killed on June 30th during the “March of the Flowers” march, a demonstration protesting the many killings of youth and children.
HAVANA TIMES – They returned the bands and kerchiefs that Luis Manuel Ortiz had been selling, handing them back to Nohelia Pavon, 23 years old. In the hospital, in desperation, she shouted: “Why did he stay there? Knowing that sales were slow, we should have gone back. He would still be here with his little girl! I wanted him to talk to me, but he was already unable to answer.”
They wanted to earn some 500 cordobas (around US $16), the price of a can of powdered milk for their year-old daughter. That morning, Luis Manuel took out his cart to pick up trash and earn enough to transport himself, his partner and his mother-in-law to the March of the Flowers. He had spent 1,000 cordobas (US $31.65) on merchandise, and he was dejected when the activity planned for June 23 was cancelled. The next Saturday, June 30, he was hoping to recoup his investment.
Since the demonstrations began in April, the young couple had gone to the protests to sell different items. They divided up during the March of the Flowers in order to cover more territory and in that way make more money. Nohelia ran into Luis Manuel at least three times in the course of the march. “That day we did badly with the sales; I had barely sold 90 cordobas worth when I saw him for the last time,” she recalls. At the Jean Paul Genie roundabout, the couple separated. A short time later the shots began.
Nohelia ran and found her mother. Together they waited for Luis Manuel for two hours, asking people if they’d seen a street vendor. “I thought that he’d already left the area, but no. I never imagined that he was going to go all the way there (where the shots were coming from). Maybe he went on because he wanted to follow the march to sell more and get enough for my little girl’s milk,” grieves the young woman. When they couldn’t find him, they went home. Later they recognized him in a photo where he appeared with blood on his jeans, a backpack and closed eyes. Two young people took him to the hospital on a motorcycle. He was 23 and had been shot twice in the head.
“Some days we did badly and we were left with the merchandise, but we looked for a way to make a living. He was my support, he was my third arm, he helped me with the little girl and now he’s no more. I don’t think I’ll go back to selling at the marches, not anymore,” Nohelia assures. Before the April rebellion, Luis Manuel worked at the Oriental Market dumping garbage for businesses while she sold fruits and vegetables. Whatever they could. “He was an affectionate, dutiful, responsible person and a very hard worker. I’ve saved all his little things,” says Nohelia, referring to the bands and kerchiefs that he hadn’t been able to sell.
Like them, at least a thousand casual laborers in Managua have found in the protests an opportunity to subsist. The sale of flags and patriotic articles at the roadblocks or demonstrations is a good out for families like that of Nohelia and Luis Manuel who’ve been left with no work. “They invest from US $30-150 in products. They peddle flags, they have whistles, they have kerchiefs, headbands, face masks. On a really good day, those who invest just over US $30 may go home with $15 in profits,” explains Irlanda Jerez, a dentist and merchant from Managua’s Oriental Market.