USA 4 Nica: The story of how an actor, known for his role as a zombie apocalypse survivor, and his anesthesiologist wife, born in Nicaragua, inform U.S. residents about what’s happening in Nicaragua.
By Monica Garcia Peralta (Confidencial)
HAVANA TIMES – Karina looks nervous. She barely glances at the camera. In contrast, her husband Michael has no problem introducing their video “Reaction: Crisis in Nicaragua”. The video is featured on the personal YouTube channel of Michael Wayne Foster, a US actor, known mainly for his role as Derek in “The Walking Dead: Red Machete”.
In this video, Karina and Michael Foster translate and comment on what happened when more than 40 doctors from a teaching hospital in Leon protested the arbitrary dismissals of medical personnel there. It was July 30, 2018. After three months watching from their home in Los Angeles the crisis of protest and repression that exploded in Nicaragua in April 2018, the Fosters had decided it was time to do something.
Karina Foster was born in Nicaragua but has lived nearly her whole life in the United States. Her family moved there between 1979 and 1980. She doesn’t have any close family in Nicaragua, but she does have a lot of dear friends.
“When everything began in April, I was sharing on Facebook anything I could find in English. But Mike said, ‘Karina, all the information coming out of Nicaragua is in Spanish, no one here knows what’s going on.’ And that’s how we decided to begin. What motivated me the most was seeing what was happening in the hospitals. That touched my heart,” states Karina. She uses her free time after work as an anesthesiologist to raise consciousness in the US community about the crisis that Nicaraguans are living through.
USA 4 Nica, the “challenge” and the campaigns
Karina Foster understands how difficult it must be for the doctors to confront the repression they were living through. “Not attending to your patients goes against your humanity,” she says. First, she thought of going to a mall and handing out flyers with information, but her husband convinced her that social media would be more effective. “So, we decided to take up the challenge of setting up #SOSNicaragua, and Mike invited people to display the hashtag on their cars,” she recounts.
A short time later, they set up the Facebook page USA 4 Nica and the Instagram profile usa4nica. Karina is the one who does the research about what’s happening in the country, translates the information they find most relevant, and adds a brief analysis before transmitting it via their pages. Michael does his part by sharing and supporting the initiative through his personal accounts on Twitter and his YouTube channel, as well as a subsite on his official web page
Once they decided to become more active regarding what was going on in Nicaragua, they began participating in the protests being held in Los Angeles, and in internet challenges such as the #PicoRojo challenge [which asked that women who oppose the regime wear bright red lipstick and post a photo of themselves]. They also urged the US community to contact their senators in favor of passing the Magnitsky Law and the Nica Act sanctions.
They’ve also taken a lot of interest in clarifying the information disseminated in the news and social networks in the United States, since according to their point of view, these aren’t always clear about what’s really happening. For example, they’ve made videos opposing the March 2019 friendship baseball game between Puerto Rico and Nicaragua and clarifying why actress Shakira Barrera of the Netflix series “Glow” wore a Nicaraguan flag to the SAG Awards.
The actress went to the awards ceremony with a dress that represented what was happening in Nicaragua, and a bag that said “Nicaragua Libre” [Free Nicaragua]. We explained on our sites what this meant, because we noticed that social media and the news here [in the US] merely said: ‘Actress Shakira Barrera used this dress because she wanted to show that she’s from Nicaragua’. They didn’t talk about what was happening, that there was a genocide in Nicaragua,” Karina explains.
The official repression unleashed against the April 2018 rebellion left at least 325 dead, thousands of wounded, dozens missing, and hundreds of political prisoners who are essentially hostages of the regime, plus tens of thousands in exile due to the political persecution.
#SOSNicaragua wherever they go
From the first video up until now, there have been a lot of changes. First, and most importantly for the Fosters, is the quantity of people who have seen it. They’re followed by thousands of people. Also, Karina now feels more confident in front of the camera and has even taped some videos by herself.
“We’ve begun to print photos instead of merely talking, so that people can see what we’re trying to support. Like on the video about the baseball game [where the Puerto Rican team came to Managua to play the Nicaraguan baseball team], we showed people: ‘Look, here’s the stadium; they’re shooting from here into the Cathedral, and here’s where they killed Alvarito (Conrado)” Karina remarks.
The anesthesiologist uses her free time at work “when the surgery schedule is slow” to do internet searches, while her husband is the one who arranges the taping set and edits the videos that are posted to each network.
They state that combining their careers with their activism has been fairly easy because they’ve encountered a lot of people who are curious about this cause, and above all willing to help.
For me, it’s as simple as sporting a t-shirt. Most actors don’t work every day, so I have time to make the videos or post the challenges. Another thing is that when I do work, it means a lot of traveling. I was in San Antonio, Texas, and then I had to go back to tape in Michigan; I’ve been in Alabama and Atlanta, and wherever I go I wear my t-shirt that says #SOSNicaragua. So most US citizens become curious and ask me – ‘What’s #SOSNicaragua? What does it mean?’ So, then I tell them all about it,” Michael explains.
“Derek” loves being a “Nica-gringo”
Due to his up-front and constant support in the Nicaraguan crisis, Michael Wayne Foster has earned the nickname “Gringo-Nica”. “I love it,” assures the author who plays “Derek”, a survivor of the zombie apocalypse on the popular web spinoff series, based on “The Walking Dead”.
“When we saw the news that they were shooting at the students, we felt really angry. Seeing what was happening there affected us greatly. I’ve been to Nicaragua, we’ve gone surfing at San Juan del Sur. We really enjoyed going there and we want to go back. We want to see our friends, it’s our home away from home. For that reason, we decided to at least put up our best effort to help people,” Michael declares.
A party to support Nicaraguan refugees
In addition to the USA4NICA initiative, the Fosters began to work with the Al-Barro Foundation also located in Los Angeles. Together with them, they’ve collected clothing, personal hygiene items and food to send to Nicaraguans exiled in Costa Rica. One of the ways they managed to collect items was through a house party, where you had to donate some basic product to get in.
“People brought me socks, toothpaste.. while others told me that they hadn’t had a chance to do that, but would say, ‘Here, take 50 dollars.’ So, I’d tell them: ‘OK, you can come in.’ People at my work have also been very generous. I’ve even had to tell them that I don’t have any more room in the car and I’ll come back the next day for more,” Karina recounts.
The actor adds that when he tells people about what’s happening in Nicaragua, many react with: “Wow! How can I help?”
“There are a few people who come up to us and donate with no thought of personal gain and tell us: ‘Don’t put out our names, we’re not looking for publicity, but here’s this giant box of clothing and some money to help,’” the actor explains.
The couple has also established contact with the “Apocalyptix” design company who makes their t-shirts with the #SOSNicaragua hashtag. The sale of these t-shirts allows them to continue collecting aid for Nicaraguans exiled in Costa Rica.
Michael affirms: “What we want to keep doing is informing and participating in challenges or activities to let US residents know how they can help and continue our efforts to send aid to Costa Rica. We want to raise awareness and let them know they’re not alone.”