I feel honored to be the mother of Ana Margarita Vijil, my darling daughter who grasped the importance of love for others very early in life, and who discovered that to be happy is to give part of your life to others. For that dedication, on June 13 of this year, Ana’s home was raided, and she was violently abducted. Since that date, six long months ago, she has been incarcerated and held in solitary confinement, suffering all kinds of deprivation.
Ana Margarita is the youngest of my six children. Her arrival to this world was so desired by all of us. She has always been sensitive to the suffering and violations of the rights of others. She has a special kind of charisma, always treating everyone she comes across with respect and so much love. I think this is the most important quality of her personality.
Today is Ana Margarita’s 44th birthday. She has been active in politics for sixteen years, but ever since she was a pre-teen she has participated in all kinds of social causes. It’s as if she decided a long time ago to dedicate her life to healing and alleviating the pain and injustices she encountered.
Ana takes a look around and always finds where to go to help. When Nicaragua suffered the devastation of Hurricane Juana, she was ten years old and she helped out by sorting clothes at the Red Cross. For her pastoral work at her high school, Colegio Centro América, she visited children with cancer at La Mascota Hospital. Later, in Barrio El Recreo, she helped the neighborhood kids catch up on their studies.
Ana also joined the Los Pipitos Association and every Saturday she visited a girl with disabilities whose parents hid her out of shame in the Monseñor Lezcano neighborhood. One day Ana came home happy because the girl had finally smiled at her. In a program to support street children, Ana sponsored three little brothers and sisters who she brought home several times a year, especially at Christmas, and took them out to eat, giving them a special treat and a lot of affection.
When it comes to animals, Ana loves them all. She has always lived surrounded by them and is constantly adopting more. When she’d see someone selling birds or other animals on the street corner, she would buy them just to set them free. Her dog Chester is missing her very much. I can only imagine the excitement they’ll feel when they meet again.
Ana Margarita was not a bookworm, but she was a very diligent student. When she was a university student at the UCA, she joined the pastoral program. And then Hurricane Mitch hit. Ana, along with another friend and a Jesuit priest, moved for two months to Tepalón, near Granada. That area floods every time it rains heavily and the streets fill with mud and water. While there, Ana realized there were many children who didn’t have birth certificates and were not officially registered and, therefore, did not exist as citizens. So while she finished her law degree at the UCA, she dedicated herself to registering them and getting them their birth certificates.
In 2002, Ana tried her hand at diplomacy, working on the Nicaraguan vs. Colombia territorial and maritime litigation. She was good at it, but she felt it was not her true calling, so she returned to Nicaragua. She graduated top of her class and applied for and got a Fulbright scholarship to do her master’s degree in Political Science in Arizona. There she continued her political activism, helping prevent undocumented immigrants who entered through the desert from dying of thirst.
Back in Nicaragua, Ana taught university classes on Human Rights, but ended up having to resign because she entered politics. She found the political arena to be a means to bring well-being, justice and democracy to more people. That led her to commit herself to the Unamos party (formerly MRS), whose name –which means “Let’s Unite”– for her means caring for others.
In Miguel’s and my home, we always encourage our family care for others. For us it has been so important to discover that happiness lies in commitment to others. As a Christian, I believe God wants me to be happy, but not only for me to be happy – also others, those around me.
Ana Margarita understood that and made it the imprint on all her causes in recent years: supporting the sugar cane workers with chronic kidney failure, protesting against open pit mining, accompanying the elderly protest reductions in their pensions, defending women who are defending themselves against violence. She has been a constant support for farmers, peasants and indigenous people’s struggles to defend their lands, going to each community where a protest was being held and visiting whatever remote community where the struggle was happening. And since 2018, she has accompanied the families of the victims of the regime’s massacres and the fight for the liberation of all political prisoners.
And now Ana Margarita herself is a political prisoner. My baby, Ana Margarita. Her imprisonment and the torture of isolation and deprivation she is subjected to, cause me great pain and anguish every day. This is the first time I know what it feels like to not be able to communicate with one of my daughters. And it’s not because we don’t want to communicate. Someone is actively preventing us from communicating.
The last time I visited Ana she was left with great anguish, thinking I might die. I am just coming out of a serious situation of acute intestinal obstruction, which required two surgeries and intubation. I also have metastases from ovarian cancer and will be starting a new round of chemotherapy soon.
I do not want to die, and even less so in these circumstances. I want to have my daughter with me. I am doing everything possible to keep on living, and to free her.
I look to the future every day. I see myself surrounded by my children, surrounded by love. Now, with my illness, I have been aware of the love that we have built over all these years. When Ana Margarita is released, all the difficulties will become minor things. For me now the greatest thing would be the liberation of Ana Margarita, Dora María, and my granddaughter Tamara.
I pray for their unconditional release and that of the more than 167 political prisoners. The only wish I feel at all times is to have my daughter by my side. With that, I could carry out my healing process in peace and with hope. I put my trust in God the Father, full of mercy and love, in whom I believe and from whom I expect in return.