The “Vandals” Clean Up Garbage in Diriamba & Jinotepe, Nicaragua

A blue and white truck collects waste in Diriamba, while in Jinotepe dozens of residents go out on the streets in a day dedicated to cleaning up garbage.

By Yader Luna  (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – For Janier Garcia, the protests that began in Nicaragua on April 18 have brought him new experiences. It was the first time he ever saw a mob raining blows on people in Managua. He had left Diriamba with some friends to protest against the Social Security reforms, but he never imagined that the mob violence that day was only the beginning of a series of massacres that in 78 days of protests have now caused more that 300 deaths in the country.

Janier has also found himself for the first time in charge of a group of youth behind the barricades in his city. “Since the protests began, I told myself that I had to organize a chapter of the 19th of April Movement in my city,” he states, referring to the student movement that the official press and the government – in the voice of Vice President Rosario Murillo – has branded “Vandals”.

Several volunteers carried out a collection of the garbage on the streets of Diriamba.. Photos: Mi Diriamba 1917

Recently, it was also his first time driving a truck, but for a good cause. This 25-year-old youth, together with other volunteers, spearheaded a clean-up day for Diriamba. Since last week, Garcia has driven a flashy truck that collects garbage almost daily all over the city.

The truck was lent them by the local Mayor’s office as part of an agreement with Cesar Castillo, parish priest of the San Sebastian Basilica, and Carlos Torrez from the San Jose Church.  After more than 15 days with no garbage collection on the streets, the waste had begun to accumulate. “Because of this, we decided to breathe life into this citizens’ initiative,” he explained.

The youth decided to paint the truck with the colors of the Nicaraguan flag, and they wrote three phrases on it: “Long live Free Nicaragua!”, “We are Diriamba!”, and the well-known call to action, “Que se rinda tu madre!”, roughly translated as “Let your mother be the one to surrender!” On each of the doors, the national flower – the sacuanjoche – has been painted, and on the back,  there are paintings of mortars and a black ribbon as a symbol of mourning for all those who have died during the protests.

The neighborhoods receive them with music

Sol Gutierrez, spokesperson for the Diriamba 19th of April Movement, explained that they would be visiting each neighborhood on a weekly schedule. It was also the first time she had ever collected garbage, and she described the experience as “enlightening”.

“We’re all used to seeing the truck go by to pick up the garbage, but at times we don’t think about all of the effort that goes behind it,” she noted.

She stated that she felt happy with their reception from the people of Diriamba, who came out on the streets to receive them with flags and in some places even with music.

These young people took up a voluntary collection to pay for the gas the truck uses, and in this way avoid having the garbage continue to pile up.

Sweeping the streets of Jinotepe

The independently organized groups in the city of Jinotepe came out to clean the streets of the city.  Photo: Carlos Herrera (Confidencial)

On Monday, the self-organized residents of Jinotepe cleaned the central streets of that city, in response to the absence of the garbage-collecting trucks that haven’t been in service for more than a month.

Cristopher Reyes, organizer of the initiative, notes that the idea came up to get together with a group of friends and help. “I put out the message on Facebook and suddenly more and more people joined in. They weren’t just kids anymore, but adults who wanted to help the city,” he said.

At least sixty residents of Jinotepe got together for the clean-up with black plastic bags, sacks, shovels and rakes to pick up the garbage.

All of the collected garbage was moved out in a horse cart paid for by the citizens and taken to the municipal dump. “It’s something that we want to keep promoting, because we want to see our city clean,” Reyes declared.