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This is an outdoor factory, with only the friendly banter of the workers for sound. Most of the work is done by hand with very simple tools and little machinery.

Weston Benedictine Monks
Journey to Nicaragua
Winter Retreat, 2001

blocks
Nueva Vida:
Making concrete blocks

(ONE OF A SERIES )

NUEVA VIDA (continued): Leaving the buildings of Nueva Vida, we go to a large field where teams of men are working at two presses, manufacturing gray concrete blocks.

men mixing concrete
Men work mixing concrete for blocks

Cement and special dirt are mixed dry and then one man pours water over the mixture as another turns it over for the right consistency. The mix is then shoveled onto a square form and flattened, pressed down with a heavy tamper.

blocks curing in the sun
A field of concrete blocks, curing in the sun

The formed blocks are carted in wheelbarrows to another area for the drying process. After they are dried and cured, they are loaded onto small carts pulled by small horses and donkeys to be delivered for sale.

finished blocks being delivered
Finished blocks being delivered

This is an outdoor factory, with only the friendly banter of the workers for sound. Most of the work is done by hand with very simple tools and little machinery. But it is strenuous work, and the men labor 10 hours a day in the heat of the Nicaragua sun.

It would be easy to look at this picturesque scene and conclude that, if only enough blocks could be made, everyone would have housing and all would be well. But even that reassuring thought oversimplifies the reality facing the people of Ciudad Sandino. Just outside the Nueva Vida fence, we can see tents and shacks made of black plastic, cardboard and other cast-off materials.

"What are those for?" we ask.

shelters outside the fence
Shelters outside the fence, Nueva Vida

"People sleep in them," our guide tells us. "They are afraid to sleep in their new homes because of earth tremors. They are afraid the concrete walls will collapse on them."

Next: A trip to Tipitapa

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