Jan. 1, 2006
¡Feliz Nuevo Ano! It’s a brand new year and I was able to celebrate the coming of 2006 in Managua with friends and Flor de Caña. I’ve been pretty busy down here and tramping around the Pacific coast, a side of the country with which I’ve only recently become better acquainted. The day after I arrived my friends and I visited Granada, a beautiful old colonial city only an hour away from Managua. We had a glorious time and as proof of my self-proclaimed status as a bad-ass I think you should know something.
I hiked a volcano.
And I’m not talking about no small volcano neither my friends.
I am talking about Volcán Mombacho, an active volcano that looks out over the city of Granada. When you reach the top you can see all of Granada; Lago Nicaragua, one of the largest fresh bodies of water in the Americas, and the Isletas de Granada. At our peak we were more than 1500 km above sea level. We took a guided tour through the volcano and there were two options: an abbreviated tour and a lengthier full tour that was about four kilometers. Being the true adventurers that we are, we, of course, chose the long tour. Three hours of pure jungle and natural beauty. I must admit I’ve never seen anything like it. After the insanity that is Managua, it was really quite wonderful to be enveloped by the silence of nature, hearing only the crunch of the ground underfoot, the songs of congo monkeys climbing through the trees, and the wind rushing through the forest. It was slightly damp as we walked through the jungles that surround the volcano and I was afraid that I would be cold. But by the end of the trip I was so flushed, sweaty and exhausted I couldn’t even think about being cold. I was so overwhelmed being there and blessed by having been able to experience this place with my nose, my hands, my eyes, my ears. Using the camera lent to me by my friend, the brilliant and beautiful filmmaker, Krissy Mahan, I filmed as much as the life of my battery would permit. Perhaps after editing all of this material, I’ll have a mini-screening at my home and folks can check out my journey to Mombacho.
I’ve only recently begun to appreciate how beautiful and necessary the environment is and I realize how important it is to do all that we can to protect it. Nicaragua, it seems, might make an eco-activist of me yet. Imagine that, a radical black ecofeminist. My parents have been quite tolerant of all my political changes over the years. I wonder if they’d ever get their heads around that one. Still, I appreciate their patience and their acceptance of my need to grow and expand my politics as I see and feel necessary. And given my growing love affair with Nicaragua I’m sure they’d understand.
In any case, as it turns out Mombacho is also an area protegida, which means that although there are people who live in the area (admittedly very few) everything that is done from coffee-growing to bathrooms must be environmentally sound and sustainable. The staff of the Mombacho Reserve are doing a fine job, the place is spotless, not a water bottle or cigarette on the ground anywhere. This place, like many other protected areas throughout the world, is constantly under threat and needs the support of people who recognize the importance of biodiversity, sustainable development, and protecting the environment. You can find out more about the Mombacho Reserve at www.mombacho.org.
But alas, like all good things, our time in Granada came to an end and we had to return to Managua. Even the night before we returned people had begun celebrating the coming New Year, shooting off fire crackers one after the other for hours of end. They went off in rapid succession, like gunfire. We returned to Managua to my friend Yamila’s house and scurried our funky selves into the nearest shower to prepare for the New Year’s Eve party her parents host every year. It’s a small gathering of family friends and I felt quite happy to be there.
Yamila’s mother, Doña Sonia and her husband Juan were excellent hosts who saw to it that a sister got straight borracha before the night was over. It was a wonderful party and I spent the night talking, dancing, drinking, and getting chased around the house by a handsome and charming man old enough to be my grandfather. Don’t worry I behaved myself. It was flattering, to be sure, but also a little disconcerting to have a man flirt with me so blatantly in front of his wife, who seemed (or at least pretended) not to notice. She was very nice to me, however, and after giving me a back rub stated that I carry a lot of tension in my back (which is true) and offered to give me a massage/acupuncture session at her clinic here in Managua when I return from the Coast. My septuagenarian suitor was also curious because his wife was clearly significantly younger than him, at least 20 years, perhaps more. So the idea that he was interested in someone as young as me was a bit disturbing. It’s moments like that where I really begin to think about how race and gender (and in this case, age) dynamics come together in how people interact with one another.
This man spent the entire evening talking about how special the Atlantic Coast is and later in the evening used the same word to describe me: “Es una mujer muy especial – y lo sabe.” Perhaps, but I had to wonder. And when he kept asking me to dance, only to sit down sipping his Stoli, and watching me move I realized that perhaps there might be more to this than I had initially imagined. In Nicaragua, like in the U.S., the myth of the black seductress is alive and well. Black women from the Coast are imagined as being hypersexual and available as demonstrated in the inviting way that they move (how they walk and dance). It’s assumed that they are less inhibited in bed than Mestizas and make better lovers because they are sexually aggressive and indiscriminate. These common sense beliefs around black women’s sexuality inform daily interactions and perceptions of our bodies and shapes how people (of all races and genders) engage us. Benign comments then about they way one moves or one’s (sexual) desirability are always already implicitly charged with latent racialized understandings of the black female body.
Was I this man’s costeña fantasy? Perhaps, and the struggle is learning how to navigate the desires and discourses that are projected onto my black female body – a lesson I’ve been struggling to learn since the first time I came to Nicaragua. Let me know if you have any suggestions. Until then, I’ll stick to seducing men closer to my age and politics.
Happy New Year to all, I wish you the very best.