HAVANA TIMES – On Sunday, September 10, NPR’s “The Sunday Story” featured journalist Eyder Peralta reporting on a clandestine trip he made to Nicaragua, a country which has barred all entrance to foreign journalists.
As a Nicaraguan, whose maternal grandmother still lives there, Peralta has the advantage of a nuanced view of the country’s history and some insight into how the current dark moment came to be. He also has a Nicaraguan passport. Using the latter, he enters through a remote border crossing and travels around Managua and Masaya, all the while heeding his grandmother’s advice: “If you move carefully and don’t attract attention, it’s doable.”
His efforts to find what he calls “the truth” though, uncover mainly a veneer of normalcy, undergirded with a fear-soaked silence, broken only by two people who tell their story anonymously.
Still, his account is believable, colorful, insightful, and enriched by his own family history. He accurately portrays at least one face of this current moment in Nicaragua.
A few things, however, seemed missing from his account. By centering his search only on the realities of living under government repression, he missed some other, equally valid, truths of the country: the deep and abiding poverty; Nicaraguans’ desperate search for employment of ANY kind; the painful family separations that have followed the current mass migration, in a country where this was previously rare.
These conditions help explain what Peralta witnessed: an apparently “normal” country, where small luxuries flourish for families receiving remittances, and the fight for survival takes precedence over the desire for free expression. And for the remaining Sandinistas, the justification that Ortega-Murillo have thrown some crumbs to the faithful, while no other regime has ever done anything for the poor.
Nicaragua is not North Korea. The country is open to any tourist who abides by the regime’s gag rule, and/or is content to remain happily ignorant. For a reporter, though, or a critic of any kind, the doors are usually closed tight, so Eyder Peralta did, indeed, pull off a difficult feat. His account is well worth listening to.
Meanwhile, I can’t help thinking that somewhere on a small northern Nicaragua border post, some immigration official is being tracked down and fired for failing to have Googled this foreign reporter who managed to get through.