December 31, 2009 was the 25th anniversary of the Contra attack at Lagartillo, a village north of Achuapa.  To commemorate the fight during which six community members died, several people who fled organized a walk, called La Caminata, retracing the footpaths they followed to reach Achuapa in safety.  31 people, including parents and children who escaped 25 years ago, the kids and grandkids of those people, and foreigners in solidarity walked for over three hours in the hills from Lagartillo to Achuapa.

The event started with one of the women who escaped retelling the story of the attack and recognizing everyone who was present who had also fled.  Many of the people participating were small children the day of the attack, including one young man who was then only four weeks old.  We left around 6 am, while the sun was still rising in the hills.

After walking more than half way we stopped at a river crossing to swim and eat some breakfast of boiled malanga (a potato-like root, creamy and a bit sweet), bread and cheese, and watermelon.

The destination was the graveyard in Achuapa, where the six community member who died are buried.  The gated graves were decorated with fresh flowers, and we set off a flare in honor of “the heroes of Lagartillo”

Pick-up trucks were arranged to take us back up to Lagartillo, where there was a ceremony to commemorate the anniversary.  Several local and national politicians were present, and they unveiled a bronze statue of Sandino given as a gift to the community.  Several musicians performed, the kids from the village performed folk dances, and a poet gave a presentation of one of his original poems.  This is me with my friend Maribel’s son, Ricardo, “mi amorcito”, who I spent much of the ceremony with.

We drove back to León that evening, where the city was covered in piñatas, streamers, and fireworks.  We had a small collection of fireworks waiting for us.  The bull in the back is a Nicaraguan handmade, mimicking the puppet bulls that are worn in the parade of San Geronimo in September.  I was particularly looking forward to the “Hen laying eggs”, which supposedly spewed colored sparks out sideways.  It turned out to be a disappointment, letting out one sad whiney whistle and spewing two little lights before fizzling.  The best was unanimously decided to be the space ship, which took off straight up in the air and spun rapidly while changing color.

We went up to El Fortin, the old Somoza fort on the top of a hill overlooking the city, to watch the fireworks.  The city came alive at midnight, with colorful fireworks exploding from every barrio.  We welcomed in 2010 with grapes, hot toddies, and some good friends under the full moon.  We debated how many years it will be before a full moon will fall on new years again, and then how many before a blue moon falls on new years.  If it happens again within my lifetime, I’m sure I will be remembering where I was during this one.

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