People to Remember – Margarita

IMG_0336_2As Marisa and I begin to think about heading back to Virginia at the end of July, we want to take some time to remember and honor the people here in Nicaragua that have made our three years so wonderful.

It’s only right to start with our Nicaraguan host mom, Margarita, as Nicaraguans are fiercely loyal to their moms. From the first day in her home when I accidently walked past her room before she was fully dressed and totally embarrassed myself, I knew we would have a close relationship. It was just one of the funny, awkward (probably the most awkward) experiences that happen when you live in close quarters with a new family in a new culture, but the unknowns lead to vulnerability, which opens the door for true relationship.

Margarita, in many ways, is the archetypical Nicaraguan woman; she has lunch ready for her husband and his employees at noon everyday, she keeps a clean, tidy house, she a devoted member of her local church, and she loves her children dearly. She is happy to have her two adult children living in her house and continues to care for them even now that they’re in their 30’s and she is raising he 12 year old grandson as if he were her own.

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However, as we have come to learn, once you really get to know someone they begin to break the categories and stereotypes that you tend to label them with and become complex, unique individuals. Needless to say, Margarita is much more than a traditional Nicaraguan housewife.

Margarita smiles as she tells the story of her time working in a U.S. owned garment factory during the war soon after she was married. Even though the U.S. government was funding the counter-revolutionary war that had her husband in the northern mountains fighting his own countrymen, she fondly remembers her friendly American boss, proudly proclaims that she never missed a quota on the number of jeans she had to sew, and laughs as she remembers the volleyball games they played during their lunch breaks.

Margarita is also a savvy business woman and when she and the other members of their transportation cooperative found out that the president was embezzling huge amounts of money, she helped lead the way to forming a new cooperative where the profits would be shared equally among members.

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In many ways Margarita adopted us as her own kids during the 8 months that we lived with her family. I will always be extremely grateful for those times when she noticed how tired we were from trying to adapt to new work routines, the heat, and a new culture and went ahead and mopped our side of the house as well as hers or invited us over for dinner so we didn’t have to cook. Perhaps the thing I’ll remember most about Margarita are the mornings we spent talking over the breakfast table during our first weeks in Nicaragua. Even though she probably had a million things to do that day (cook, clean, iron, run errands, pay bills, etc. ) she would sit at the table and talk with us as if there was all the time in the world and never gave any indication of being in a hurry or needing to do anything else. She never made a move to leave until Marisa and I said we had other things to do. This incredible lesson in hospitality and prioritizing people and relationships is one that I will carry for the rest of my life.

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