Nicaragua’s Seismic Christmas Season

Today in Nicaragua, we’re not living through a movement of the earth as in 1972, but another kind of tremor has left families equally in mourning

28 de diciembre 2018


There are earthquakes that follow other earthquakes.

Today in Nicaragua, we’re not living through a movement of the earth as in 1972, but another kind of tremor has left families equally in mourning, buildings shuttered, lives splintered, children left orphaned. This Christmas there’ll be empty chairs in homes where the father or mother is missing; blackened screens; nostalgia for the landscapes of the nation and the warmth of home; so many heavy hearts that have seen their lives suddenly interrupted. There’ll be nightmares and painful images in the dreams of Nicaraguans.

In 1972, families supported one another. There was a return to the most elemental things in life: the wealth of being together was discovered, of sharing the little there was. We discovered how easy it was to get used to lacking certain material things, and to be able to laugh and hug each other while the earth continued trembling for months. You even got used to the fear produced by each new seismic replica, the uncertainty of not knowing what would happen if another earthquake occurred to destroy the little that had remained.

The human spirit in the face of adversity is a marvel, because each day our life force demands that we face up to time running its course. Days and nights won’t slow down. They pass right over our grief and terror, until time forces us to face the question of how we’re going to live in the aftermath. It’s then that we discover that the vital values and commitments don’t disappear after earthquakes.

The time comes when generosity, courage, the stubborn insistence on living according to honest principles, respect for life, the consistency between words and actions, the commitment to the new generations all become the treasure, the only treasure worth holding on to. And it’s then that we can lift our gaze to the future and once again find energy to go on living, have aspirations, and struggle to bring them to reality.

We are “earthquaked”, as we used to say in 1972. It’s the time of complete and utter confusion and crushing astonishment, but its also the time for solidarity, for accompanying and taking care of each other, for giving each other strength where there was none, for respecting differences, equipping ourselves and caring for ourselves, of facing together that very earth whose shaking displaces and terrifies us.

How good it is to discover that we’re not tied to wealth, nor to the accolades that others give us; that our hands are clean, and that we’ve been brave and have acted in accordance with our principles. How good it is that – although we’re sad – we celebrate that spirit that’s pushing us into the future.

Christmas is birth. We’ll continue being born.

 [Note: On December 23, 1972, an earthquake destroyed most of Managua, leaving some 10,000 dead and 250,000 homeless.]

Gioconda Belli

Poeta y novelista nicaragüense. Ha publicado más de quince libros de poemas, más de ocho novelas y decenas de cuentos. Su primera novela "La mujer habitada" (1988) ha sido traducida a más de catorce idiomas. Por su labor literaria ha ganado el Premio La Otra Orilla 2010; Biblioteca Breve, de Seix Barral (España, 2008); Premio Casa de las Américas, en Cuba; Premio Internacional de Poesía Generación del '27 en España y Premio Anna Seghers de la Academia de Artes de Alemania; Premio al Mérito Literario Internacional Andrés Sabella y Premio de Bellas Artes de Francia, ambos en 2014, entre muchos otros.


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