The “chavalas” behind the barricades

The story of three girls I met from the UNAN barricades

Barricade 50 mt. away from my house

Note from the blogger: This a true story that happened to me. The names of the chavalas were changed for security reasons. 

After three months of being away from my country, I am ready to write about the day that three young women from the UNAN (University of Nicaragua) came to my house to shower, and to share their stories with me.

I met Ana, a young doctor that left her job and life to join the student movement against Daniel Ortega, the dictator of Nicaragua. That was before everything started unraveling. We were involved in the young feminist movement and sharing safe spaces for women in Managua, while planning projects to fight back machismo in our land.

I was living in a house that was 50 meters away from the UNAN, with my now, ex boyfriend. We experienced first-hand the development of all the barricades around the house and the university.

When I found out that Ana joined the movement, I contacted her. I wanted to know that she was saved and also wanted to offer my support and help. I asked her if I could contact people to provide support with supplies. We then decided to meet at my house. She asked if she could bring somebody with her and I agreed, as long as no one else would know.

We rendezvoused at a small grocery store, and climbed into my car. We were all nervous. Paranoia was spreading around the country and especially between students and other young people.

When we arrived at the house, I offered them drinks and we sat at the terrace. Before we started talking we gave one another a hearty hug. Ana’s companion, Carmen, who was also a young woman, a last year medical student, at the beginning didn’t speak much, but after some time she began sharing stories about herself.

She began: “Its been 2 months since I have been home. I have a small baby and haven’t seen her since I joined the student movement. If I go back home I could be followed and the police could then find my family and abduct them to get control of me. They don’t want me to be here. But I joined the cause for the good of all of us. The people at the UNAN became my family too, and as a medical student, I can help them. I don´t want my dauther to live this again, the way we are living, after our families fought the Sandinista Revolution.”

Marvin Recinos Foto
Photo: Marvin Recinos

After writing a list of the medical supplies they needed, and sharing some details of who they were, they left. I promised them I was going to make contact with some people who could help us get the supplies. Later that day, Ana texted me and asked if Carmen and another partner could use my shower, since there were no usable showers at the university. I agreed.

While they were showering, I prepared a bag of supplies that I had at home for them to take with them. I didn’t have much, since I was now living by myself in that house. Before they left they joyfully hugged me and took the bag. I never saw them again.

Weeks later, I received the money my parents and sisters helped me raise, to buy the  needed supplies for the students. I drove to the university and the students opened the barricades for me. Ana was waiting and I gave her the supplies. That was last time I saw her. Several days later, the university was attacked by the Ortega police and paramilitary, as part of the Operación Limpieza (cleaning operation). The attack started at midday on July the 13th and ended the next day. According to the students and witnesses, the attack lasted about 14 hours. Two students were killed and many others harmed. I was alone at my house and I could hear the students screaming inside the university, as the commandos were leading the police as they ran by my house. I was scared. I couldn’t do anything, apart from hiding in the kitchen and crying. I didn’t sleep that night, nobody did, with the commandos patrolling the street.

That night I texted Ana, because I didn’t know where she was. No reply. The answer came some weeks later when she told me that she had left Nicaragua after many students were taken prisoners. The ones who made it had to either hide or escape the country. We are still in contact and I’ve heard that she managed to escape to Holland, where she is trying to get a political asylum. It took some months to get there, because she left Nicaragua without a passport, and when she finally did obtain one, she texted me how happy and relieved she now was.

Ana was just one of the many girls that stood behind the barricades that were build all around Nicaragua. For me, she represents power and courage. She supported the cause the best way she could, and she is representative of those who would love to see the rebuilding of a new Nicaragua, without it’s dictator.

Sometimes Ana and I text about how we will feel when our feet can touch our land again, but until that is possible, we will make use of our resources to help our citizens break free from the hand of the dictator and rebuild Nicaragua.

Photo: Marvin Recinos

On International Media: 

Washington Post

The Guardian 


Al Jazeera


Edited by: Edward Michaels


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