Yesterday we visited the Danish Nicaragua solidarity brigade 2007, who this year are living and working in La Pintada in Matagalpa. This village is one of the winners in the Las Tunas struggle, where a group of plantation workers, against all odds, turned the big coffee crisis of 2001 into a victory and won 5 coffee plantations from the bankrupt-stricken coffee planters of Matagalpa.
The Danish Solidarity Committee recomended this village to the brigade so we can learn more about this fight, and the new organisation, the Las Tunas Cooperative, that the 600 winners in this, Nicaragua’s latest “mini land-reform”, are creating.
I am always moved and inspired when I visit young villages as this one, whose struggles we in the Committee sometimes have had the privilige to support, here in Nicaragua or in Guatemala. To feel the scars and the history that fills these victorious veterans of harsh land conflicts, full of violent suppression and bitter disappointment. And feel the pride, the energy, and the hopes as their new village takes form.
As always, it is an exciting experiment to watch: Will these former farm workers succeed in applying their organizing and fighting skills to land management and produce marketing? Here in La Pintada the new farmers have named the plantation that they have won “Nuestra Tierra” (Our Earth). The faces and eyes of the few farmers that I had the chance to talk with, shine the love of land and pride in victory that this choice of name reflects.
As Donald, the adviser from the Farm Worker’s Association that I work with in the Matagalpa Project, said to me the other day: “Yes, the people in La Pintada are the kind of people the land reform of the 1980s was meant for. The people who are born to the land and for the land.”
The village is only three years old, but they have come a long way: The houses are shaping up, tinplate roofs and bamboo walls are replacing the plastic they started with. The next step will be to cover the bamboo walls with mud in order to insulate the houses from the freezing mountain breezes.The cottage plots lining roadside, are meticulously clean and orderly, with flower beds and well swept earth terraces, an indication of good neighbourly relations, pride of house, and good organisation. They have built latrines and have brought water to the village, have planted tomatoes as a fast cash earner, prepared a nursery for new coffee plants, and are struggling to bring the mistreated coffee plantation back into shape.
The place radiates both poverty and hope, – a race against time. Only 30 of the original 80 families still work together to run the coffee plantation. The rest of the families have chosen to receive their own little parcel of land, and go their own way.
And as always: I do not thin you can find a more beautiful place to live and work in than a coffee plantation. A good spot for our brigade.
More pictures on Flickr.