One of the people I most admire here is my host mom’s mother – my host grandmother. Her name is Dona Luisa, and she must be in her seventies. She has nine children, eight of whom still live in this small town. Her grandparents lived in Masatepe, the larger town down the road from Fatima, and her grandfather was an immigrant from France.
Last night Luisa announced that she was going to plant her terreno, the family field that is about a 10 minute walk outside of town. I asked if I could come to help. We went out this morning - Dona Luisa, my host mom, three of my host brothers (I have four total), and I - before the sun got too hot. There were a couple of guys there already using a draft horse to plough the weeds under. We each took a bowl of beans and started walking down the plowed rows, dropping the beans in slowly, and kicking dirt over them.
After the beans were planted, we left the two guys and one of my host brothers there to plant the remaining part of the field with corn, while the rest of us went out to see the part of the terreno that is planted with fruit trees. We walked through a field of coffee trees, and my host grandma remarked that the harvest probably won’t be good this year, since there hasn’t been enough rain yet. We collected some fallen mangos – stragglers, since the season has really almost ended. My host grandma offered me the one ripe orange clinging to a small orange tree. It was tart and extremely juicy.
When we got to the avocado grove, my host mom told my brothers to go climb up the trees. They each scrambled up, at least 30 feet in the air, and started shaking. Avocados rained down. We collected them and wrapped them in tee shirts to carry them back. On the way, one of my host brothers picked up a big brownish ball-looking item from the ground, cut it open with a machete, and offered me a piece of orange fruit that tasted like papaya, only better. “It’s called mamey,” my host mom informed me.
While we walked back, I asked Luisa about the terreno. I asked her if the land had always been in the family. She explained that after the revolution, a lot of people left their land. This parcel had once belonged to a wealthy family, who left during the revolution. When the Sandinistas took power, they divided up land and gave it to peasants who had never owned land before. Now the family has four manzanas (an area of land slightly larger than an acre) that they plant each year. Before that time, the family had to rent land to plant it.
I really loved being out there this morning, following the family in one of its annual routines. My host family insists that they are poor people, and it’s true that they have very little in the way of material possessions as compared to North Americans. But there is wealth here too. The more time I spend learning from my host family, the more convinced I am of that fact.