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There are no shops, stores, or services here. The nearest place for shopping and services is San Nicolas, an hour's ride by horseback.

Weston Benedictine Monks
Journey to Nicaragua
Winter Retreat, 2001

brothers in the back of a small truck
A trip to the countryside:
Quebrada de Agua

(ONE OF A SERIES )

After a few days of visiting around the town, it is time to go to the more remote settlements. Augusto and one of his friends provide the transportation.

If there is one way to really see the countryside, it is by piling into the back of pick-up trucks. Everyone gets a front seat

As we travel along there is much laughter, a few songs, and lots of waving to the people outside of their houses. Children leap with enthusiasm and run to their mothers urging them to look at the parade that is going by. So, by the time we arrive at Quebrada de Agua we are all in good spirits.

Dona Florencia's house and yard
Gathering at the house of Doña Florencia

Out of nowhere, dozens of children with their parents join us under the sloping front roof of the house of Doña Florencia. Pigs, chickens, and a few skinny dogs mingle with the gathering. We sit on improvised benches. One bench provides a great deal of merriment since it is three old wood stumps and a long board. It turns into a teeter-totter!

We settle down after a while and sing a simple vesper prayer with the people. This is followed by conversation.

First comes the introduction of the children. They are bashful, but get loads and loads of attention and affirmation from the adults when they say their name and their age.

Doña Florencia is the matriarch of this large family.

She is a vibrant and energetic woman with a contagious sense of humor and enthusiasm.

Spontaneously she welcomes the community of brothers and sisters.

Dona Florencia with children
Doña Florencia with children
After a few songs, there is a spirited discussion about life in Quebrada de Agua. The settlement includes several homes with extended families. All the residents are subsistence farmers. The men explain that they have lost their crops for the past six seasons because of droughts. This, on top of Hurricane Mitch, has caused a lot of suffering.

There are no shops, stores, or services here. The nearest place for shopping and services is San Nicolas, an hour's ride by horseback.

Doña Florencia is in a real sense the Matriarch of Quebrada de Agua. She explains that the whole settlement of Quebrada de Agua is made up of her married children and their families, a veritable tribe of peasant farmers.

After our brief visit, Doña Florencia offers to show us her 'garden.'

Just behind the house, there is a sloping yard with scattered trees, bushes, and plants. The pigs, chickens, dogs, and various other animalitos scurry about, digging and picking at what they can find.

As we enter the garden, someone says cuidado, watch your step!

It is quite a chaotic plot of land, but as we look closely we see a banana tree here, an orange tree, then a lemon tree, some corn stocks, and various other plants mixed in. It is not quite organized the way we are accustomed, but it does provide food and nourishment for children and grandchildren.

Before setting out with Doña Florencia to visit the neighboring houses, a brother asks her about the grain spread out on the tin roof of her house. She says that it is millet drying, and that it is on the roof so that the chickens can't get at it.

"Millet," she explains, "resists drought, so it is a guaranteed crop."

A brother then asks her what she does with the millet after it is dried.

"When things are good, we feed it to the pigs, she answers. "When things are bad, we eat it ourselves."

Next: New homes for hurricane victims

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