High school graduate Nazareth Valladares Arguello had planned for several weeks to raise the Nicaraguan flag in her graduation ceremony. Her grandfather, who accompanied her to receive the award for best student in the Somoto municipality was her accomplice. He carried the flag in his jacket. The 16-year-old would take it out in a protest action that did not go unnoticed on social networks.
“Whether the national emblem is inverted or not, they get very sensitive. So, I assumed it was the perfect time to protest, and my grandfather agreed.” The student explained her action in an interview for the program Esta Noche, broadcast on YouTube every Wednesday.
The protest cost her not to receive her medal for being the best student at the municipal level, However, she said that doesn’t matter. Rather, she is grateful of all the “support” [in her studies] that her school gave her. Nazareth said she is aware that they “made this decision out of fear” of reprisals [from the government].
Many people told her that with this act of protest she had thrown away her professional career. To this she responded firmly. “I ask them why they aren’t bothered that textbooks are full of images of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo? Why don’t they complain about indoctrination in the history classes?”
“There are people who have said ugly things to me, but that is the least of it. As long as they don’t harm me, everything is fine,” she said.
Nazareth spoke on these issues with maturity and determination. She assured that she finds it incredible “to have been born in the midst of a dictatorship.” She does not want her brother and children younger than her to inherit such a country.
“I want to see a different country, so that my brother and the children being born, don’t to grow up like this. I don’t want them to spend their time looking at the images of the President, telling them ‘you have to do this, you have to believe in that,’” she said.She
Besides the flag with the inverted national emblem, this young woman had other plans. She was going to place the name of Franco Valdivia Machado on her graduation stole. Valdivia was one of the young people killed in Esteli on April 20, 2018, when the protests against the Ortega regime were in their third day. Valdivia was shot dead in the city’s central park. On that day, Orlando Perez was also assassinated.
Indoctrination in public schools
When Daniel Ortega returned to power in 2007, Nazareth was three years old. Almost her entire life she has lived under a Government that centralizes information and blocks social protest. This has not prevented her from having her own judgement and from questioning education in public schools.
“There is indoctrination. For those reasons I left a public school. They would get so sensitive to whatever I did. They would call me and say: don’t do that, be careful, don’t take out a flag,” she said.
When she participated in the best student contest, all the biographies she studied “were of Sandinista guerrillas and the revolution.” The essays assigned to her were of characters like Tomas Borge, and other cadres loyal to Ortega. They also made her watch videos about the triumph of the 1979 Revolution.
“In the contest I thought, is it really to admire Sandinismo, or what? It’s amazing they selected me, they knew who I was,” she narrates.
Valladares denounced that she was not able to obtain the recognition of best student at the departmental level, because they “cheated.” The authorities gave out a mistaken test and when there were thirty minutes to complete it, they pulled out the real one.
Having a critical attitude in her school life has cost her losing friendships. “Several of my friends are forbidden to talk with me or come to my house, or for me to go to theirs. I cannot even go out alone for fear that they will arrest me or do something to me,” she said.
Among her plans is to study law, a career she feels some vocation for. Her mother, Daniela Arguello, is a lawyer and has defended political prisoners.
“I see myself in the future as a criminal lawyer in this country and I think it is a country that deserves justice. It deserves a voice and quality professionals,” said the high school graduate.
School “regrets what happened”
The Rafael Maria Fabretto Parish School issued a statement on their social networks. They assured that Nazareth made “an inappropriate use of the national flag.” This caused “discomfort in a good percentage of those involved in the ceremony.”
The institution turned its back on its student and called the act “a desire to practice a protagonist behavior in the premises.” They assured that Nazareth “acted driven by motives totally unrelated to our vision and institutional mission.”
They stressed that they will continue promoting “a culture of peace” that does not offend “neither Moors nor Christians.” However, the student did not say any offense or insult. She only pulled out a Nicaraguan flag for a few seconds and held it up.
Regarding the medal, the school stated it was not given because “the beneficiary did not allow it because she was in a hurry to leave the premises.” In fact, the student says that she had to leave early for fear that a police patrol could arrive.