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My Dilemmas as a Migrant Mother

How do you pass on the culture of the country you left to your children? What Nicaraguan legacies are worth perpetuating? How do you transfer roots?

Ilustración creada con Ideogram.

Cindy Regidor

31 de mayo 2024

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May 30th arrives, Mother’s Day in Nicaragua, and I am faced with a dilemma now that I am a mother. I don’t know if I should celebrate this date with my family or the second Sunday in August, Mother’s Day in Costa Rica, where I have lived for nine years and became a mother a year ago.

Ideally, we should celebrate both, why not? But that would be if only May 30th were not marked by a massacre perpetrated in 2018 by the current dictatorship in Nicaragua. During the massive civic protests of that year, on that May 30th, during “the mother of all marches,” bullets erupted among the citizens, who were peacefully clamoring for an end to the repression. They were people moved by solidarity, supporting the mothers of the first slain (in the previous month and a half), who did not believe the authorities would dare to attack and who, horrified, saw more citizens die.


It’s hard for me to celebrate May 30th since then. It’s uncomfortable for me to enjoy congratulations thinking about the pain of the mothers who lost their children so cruelly in those demonstrations that inspired strength, freedom, and a desire to build a better society.

For now, I have decided to only celebrate the Costa Rican date, where a beautiful and popular phrase is shared on this and other special days: “Blessed is the Costa Rican mother who knows that her child will never be a soldier.” I can now count myself among those blessed moms.

Starting out in motherhood, I face dilemmas like celebrating Mother’s Day, which may seem superficial, but in my case is significant due to the recent painful events in my country of origin, which invite deeper reflections.

I also see, with fresh eyes, other realities: those of giving birth and raising children outside one’s country. I have a son born in Costa Rica, with a Nicaraguan mother and a Canadian father. I have already written a bit about how migrating redefined my identity and my goals, especially professionally.

Motherhood as migrant women often means doing so without support networks, so vital during childbirth and postpartum, when mother and baby are vulnerable and need a lot of support. That loneliness hits hard, especially among those newly arrived, with few acquaintances and limited fianances. Talking to Nicaraguan women in Costa Rica and from other countries about this topic has made me more empathetic and aware of how hidden this reality remains to society.

I then think of my mother, who had to emigrate to Honduras in the 1980s, and had to care for my older siblings without family nearby and amid economic limitations. Surely it wasn’t easy, especially with the arrival of two new family members: my sister and me, who were born towards the end of that decade, which is why we were nicknamed “the Catrachas” (the Hondurans) when we arrived in Nicaragua, my country, where I grew up, whose reality shaped who I am, and where all my family comes from.

Migration has marked Nicaraguans throughout our history in ways little reflected upon and internalized as a collective. Perhaps it’s because it is so common to leave or have someone who left, it has become an unnoticed part of our identity. These realities and questions of those of us who raise children far from our first home are rarely addressed.

For my husband and me, the most important thing is that our son feels part of both his families, the place where he was born and where we live. That means, first and foremost, teaching him, day by day and with discipline, to communicate in both Spanish and English, so he can build strong relationships with grandparents, cousins, and uncles, to feel belonging in both the north and the south. In our daily life, when we speak to him in Spanish, we teach him Nicaraguan and Costa Rican vocabulary. We ask if he wants a “pacha,” sometimes if he already took his “chupon,” we teach him that the green noisy birds in the tree are “chocoyos” or “pericos.”

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I also wonder how I want him to live and feel his roots, particularly the Nicaraguan ones.

I wonder how you pass on the culture of the country you left to your children. Some do it through typical foods, ensuring it is present daily, teaching them to recite Rubén Darío’s poems, singing traditional songs, dressing them in folk costumes. I am not a nationalist in a cliché sense, but I admit I was moved when my baby received as a gift the classic baseball jersey with the word Nicaragua on the chest.

My son's baseball jersey. Photo: Cindy Regidor

Living in Costa Rica, I think about what his perception will be of who we Nicas are, knowing that in the collective imagination we are “the others,” the largest foreign group in the country, very present in all aspects of national life, but who also suffer discrimination and a series of barriers for being the type of migrant that is sometimes unwanted or undervalued.

A few years ago, when I worked on a report about migrant children in Costa Rica, I was struck by how several of our interviewees perceived Nicaragua, the country of their parents and from which they had to leave. I clearly remember Elmer’s drawing showing, on one side, a Nicaragua in war, chaos, and destruction, and on the other, a green Costa Rica, in peace and freedom. There was nothing false or distorted in that perception, but it hurt me that this was the one that child had most present.

Elmer, one of our interviewees for the report “Migrant Children: What is it like to grow up ‘without papers’ in a country where you weren’t born?”. Photo: César Arroyo.

I don’t want my son to associate Nicaragua with tragedies, nor with the myths of the old glories of arms and violence. I am not interested in leaving him legacies of resentments and hatreds, of divisive postures or superiority among brothers or neighbors.

I want to teach him the history of my country from the perspective of change, to tell him how, shortly before he was born, a movement of hope for a different Nicaraguan society was born: peaceful, just, more equal, and freer. But I also don’t want to give him a sugar-coated version of who we are; I want him to question where he comes from, what we have been, and what we can be.

I want to instill in him the values we Nicas most pride ourselves on: our genuine warmth, joy, and resilience amid many storms, humility, courage, and the resolute solidarity that moved hundreds of thousands of Nicas to march that May 30th.

I long for us to have a new date to celebrate Nicaraguan mothers and that every May 30th we commemorate the victims of the dictatorship as we should. I have faith that I will be able to pass on to my son a Nicaraguan heritage of justice and the reaffirmation of peace.

I am triple eight. It is the initial code of my Nicaraguan identity card that identifies me as born abroad. I also hope, sooner rather than later, to take my son to Nicaragua and have him registered with that triple eight, as a Nicaraguan marked by migration, and that he grows up feeling love, respect, pride, and a deep connection to his roots.

This article was published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times. To get the most relevant news from our English coverage delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Dispatch.

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Cindy Regidor

Cindy Regidor

Periodista nicaragüense desde 2007, con experiencia en prensa escrita, televisión y medios digitales. Tiene una especialización en producción audiovisual y una maestría en Medios de Comunicación, Estudios de Paz y Conflicto de la Universidad para la Paz de las Naciones Unidas. Fundadora y editora de Nicas Migrantes, proyecto por el cual ganó el Impact Award 2022 del Departamento de Estado de EE. UU. Ha realizado coberturas in situ en Los Ángeles (Estados Unidos), México, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua y Costa Rica. También ha colaborado con France 24, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, BBC World Service. Ha sido finalista y ganadora de varios premios nacionales e internacionales, entre ellos el Premio Latinoamericano de Periodismo de Investigación Javier Valdez, del Instituto Prensa y Sociedad (IPYS), 2022.

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