If this is my story, it is your story too

by Marcela Checa, http://www.neo-vox.org, October 31, 2008

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How much do you know about Central American history?

If this is my story, it is your story too.

On the American continent, we all share a gift that connects us. This gift is the treasured history and culture that shapes our present today. This gift is inside of us, but our sight is too distracted to notice it because our senses are asleep and uninterested. We need to find the impulse to unwrap it. The key is to see and get to know the world around you. We have to widely open our eyes and discover the extraordinary treasures that are hidden within our blood. Awaken the soul and develop a broader view about the purpose of the pursuit of oneself. Beneath our physical appearance, there is so much history and exquisite mystery. Do you know who you are? You know your name for sure, but do you know what you are made of? We are made up of legends, adventures, struggles and infinite stories throughout history. But which is your story?

My Story
I was born and raised in Honduras. I learned so much about Central American history at school. When I was fourteen years old I discovered something that still shocks me today: My dad’s experience of living during the Nicaraguan Revolution.

The Nicaraguan Revolution is a big part of Nicaragua, Central America, and the history of the American continent. This revolution was started by the Sandinista National Liberation Front which was a Marxist influenced ideology organization. They overthrew the dictatorship of the Somoza family, particularly Anastasio Somoza Debayle, whose family of the liberal party ruled Nicaragua from the 1930s until 1979. Anastasio Somoza is known as one of the many dictators in the history of Latin America.

My father lived with the Somozas because they are his family. They all lived the revolution and were threatened with death. The Sandinistas wanted to kill my dad`s family and therefore his family had to escape from Nicaragua to be safe. My dad and his family had to catch a quick flight and leave the country immediately due to serious death threats and assassinations. My father suffered a lot and went through very hard times during his childhood.

My dad was not part of the government, but he was Anastasio Somoza's nephew and lived with them in the presidential house for many years. They had to leave all of their belongings behind, and they went to Washington D.C. with no money in their pockets. They lost all of their land, properties, photo albums and businesses they had back in Nicaragua. The majority of the Somoza family members left Nicaragua and went to live in countries such as Costa Rica, Peru, Spain and the United States of America. The incident that made the Somozas leave the country the -- “drop of water that made the glass spill” --was Marcel`s assassination.

Marcel Pallais Checa (1955-1979) was my dad`s cousin. Marcel`s uncle General Anastasio Somoza was Nicaragua`s dictator during the revolution. My dad grew up with his cousin Marcel, who was one of his best childhood friends with whom he shared many memories. Marcel was a brilliant and outstanding kid. He was a straight "A" student who loved studying and experiencing things by his own. Marcel loved to share outdoors activities with my dad during his childhood, like playing soccer and camping.

My dad remembers him as a kind person who always thought about everyone else before himself. He grew up surrounded by priests in strict Jesuit schools that led him to adopt rebellious idiosyncrasies. He studied and deeply absorbed Nietzsche, Hegel, and Marx`s ideologies. He always carried his Marxist bible with him. By the time he was 16, he started to question his own family`s political ideologies.

“Marcel discovered his destiny when he was around 16 years old. Maybe he
didn't know it then, but his commitment to his homeland, by then only an ideal to cherish, traced the path that led him to his death. By then Marcel was cooperating with the Sandinistas, in his own quiet way.”

While he started working with the Sandinistas , Marcel wrote:

Anxiously awaiting the passing of time,
death came upon me
and I stopped wringing my hands,
grinding my teeth,
moving my feet,
keeping my hands on my waist.
Truly, I am on different ground now.
I am no longer interested in the moon
or black eyes.
A kiss and a storm are the same.
I am no longer tortured by the next
turn of the road.
Dry leaves suffocate me, though
(I now believe in the history of the fist)
I am only frightened by the shadow
of my footsteps.
I do not know if I am doing or undoing,
if I am beginning or ending
(maybe hell is trapped between my fingers)

He will always be known by the Sandinistas as "a white flower in the dirty hay."

"A Gandhi-like thinker, a poet, a passionate lover of
life that hated violence and desperately wanted to help bring
about a radical change in Nicaragua, Marcel was driven by
inner urges most of us will never fully understand. There
far too many contradictions in his soul, all of which he
experienced fully in his everyday life."

His death is still a mystery. Many people think his own uncle killed him, but the majority agrees with the theory that his own Sandinista comrades had killed him because he was educated, good-looking and primarily related to the Somozas.

My father did not agree with most of Somoza`s policies, but he thinks Nicaragua was better while he was in charge because during those years everyone had a job and their basic necessities. During those years under a dictatorship, Nicaragua was one of the most developed countries in Central America; now it is known as the poorest country in Central America. I study and live in Costa Rica and it is amazing how many immigrants go to Costa Rica in pursuit of a better life and to find jobs to sustain their homes back in Nicaragua. Nicaragua is in a critical situation right now where poverty is causing people to immigrate to other countries in search of subsistence.

I know dictator Anastasio Somoza, “TACHITO,” has a bad reputation worldwide and has been known as the responsible for numerous deaths in Nicaragua. But hundreds of innocent people were killed by the Sandinistas, too. I admit Somoza's dictatorship was a greedy one and the money was concentrated mostly with the rich, but at the same time, as I said before, Nicaragua was the most developed country in Central America during the dictatorship and everyone had a job until then.

Why did Nicaragua become so poor after the Sandinistas overthrew the Somozas? Why is it now one of the poorest countries in Latin America? Maybe the Somoza dictatorship was not as bad as people think it was, or maybe the Sandinistas` ideologies were great but they never knew how to apply them efficiently. So who was right? Left or right? Capitalism, Socialism, or Communism??

I must admit I think the Somoza system failed due to their greediness and my beliefs incline more to the Sandinistas` ideologies. But what I do not support is how the Sandinistas tried to apply those thoughts and desires. They got what they wanted and made a free Nicaragua, but why is Nicaragua the way it is now? Why is everyone migrating to other countries and escaping from their Free Nicaragua? Somehow the country is a mess now and why was it so developed back then? This makes me fall into a skeptic state that leads me to keep researching.

What I am certain and sure of is Marcel`s mission. He was not afraid of fighting for his beliefs and somehow he had the courage to fight for a free Nicaragua against his own roots. A person that perseverant and courageous never fails. He wanted to save many Nicaraguans from the greedy and make equal rights for everyone.

I really feel identified with Marcel because he was a poet, and I love to write as well. He was not afraid to fight for his own rights and to defend what he believed. I feel as if I owe him something. My will to keep searching for that purpose somehow made me grasp many of his personality`s characteristics. He was a fighter, dreamer, struggler and overall a person that fights 'till the end to pursue their dreams. I want to keep on searching what Marcel would want me to do in life, I want to spread his heroic story and maintain its aliveness, I want to tell my children his story and so on like an everlasting echo that will keep Marcel alive for decades and inspire others to be free and find themselves. Do not be afraid to find yourself and shout out your dreams. Be the inspiration to others to live a free and soothing life where there are no obstacles to stop you from following your dreams!

Marcel`s assassination made a huge impact on my dad. My father promised to name one of his children after him. He named me Marcela.
It is so soothing to know I am named after such a great person and a historical martyr like Marcel. It is amazing how much meaning there could be behind a simple name like mine. It is sustained by so much history and memories my father still keeps. I still ask my dad for more stories and somehow every time I hear them, I feel like as if I get to know myself even more. Discovering new things about ourselves like our past gives our presence more meaning. I have learned to see my life through the history of my family and my country, at this moment, this place, at this time. I have learned to discover the real me just like I know every inch of my skin and every freckle, I have learned to know my history. There is always a reason for everything. This is the story of my namesake.

You can unwrap your story too
There are so many interesting stories that are wrapped and need to be unwrapped for them to be able to survive in time. If my dad never told me his story, I wouldn’t have been able to discover who I am and learn about my cultural roots. We all not only share a piece of land in this continent, but a background of wrapped treasures. Getting to know your neighbor is getting to know yourself because we are all connected inside a world where we are one whole. Your neighbor is a part of you and you are a part of them. “You are me, as I am you and we are all together” (The Beatles).

" If we believe everyone else is like us, then we must believe, as a natural corollary, that we are like everyone else".
You must learn to see through your neighbor`s eyes by getting to know their culture, ways of living, and the ways they are connected to your own culture. It is important to enrich your knowledge about your surroundings. This is the only way to learn how to appreciate your culture. Comparisons and similarities will always be present while you are seeking to gain knowledge about your nation and neighbor countries.
There are many interesting facts about the history of other cultures that often link to that of your own. Did you know that the “ Nicaraguan Revolution embodies a major historical part, not only to Nicaragua, Central America and the American continent, it also marked one of the high notes to the development of the Cold War?”

It is your decision whether or not you decide to acquire knowledge of the beautiful things around you that can help you understand a bit more about you and the reason why the world is the way it is.
As I decided to write about Central American history, I made 30 surveys and handed them around SUNY Cortland University. Out of 30 persons, only 7 persons knew where Nicaragua was located and only 2 persons knew who Anastasio Somoza was.
I am really concerned about this lack of cultural and educational knowledge. In my opinion, I think that we should all know a bit of every culture especially in our American continent. History is part of us and it will always be within us. Life is about finding out who you are and where you come from before understanding your present and deciding what your goals will be. Life is full of surprises, but some of them are left behind and are still waiting to be unwrapped. Learning to see further and discovering your roots is a vital process that helps you view life in a beautiful and more astonishing way. This process helps you discover your own story. Understanding how the world works is part of growing as a person. Unwrapping the gift we all carry inside is opening and discovering ourselves. Unwrapping our gift is a part of keeping every story, adventure, and memory alive throughout time because every incident counts and it deserves to survive and be told from one generation to the next. This way apart of you and your ancestors will always be alive and eternal, through generations. Your story will live through people`s minds like a never ending echo. If you want your story to survive from one generation to the next and so on, you have to unwrap that gift you carry inside by discovering your roots through history.

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