Friday, January 12, 2018

Southern Autonomous Region of Nicaragua

The government of Nicaragua is spending big money on infrastructure projects in the, politically restive, eastern portion of the country. This part of the country speaks a variation of four languages, Creole, English, Garifuna, and Spanish. After speaking with many locals, on different occasions and in different countries along the Caribbean coast, many openly admit they speak many languages but none of them well enough to obtain good jobs. For far too long, the people along the Caribbean coast have been neglected and left to their own devices. From Belize to the north, all the way to Colombia in the south, we have seen isolated communities become their own mini nation-states. These enclaves teach their own ways and if required by a central government they might teach the national language. However, for most along the eastern coast, from Belize to Colombia, and probably far beyond, the mother-tongue is Creole. In fact, Miskito, indigenous tribes and the Garifuna peoples all converse in a form of creole understood in the region. Man's ability to linguistically adapt is on full display in the western Caribbean.
   The regions of eastern Nicaragua are even known by different names. Many Hispanics refer to the area as Zelaya, whereas, the locals refer to the area as the autonomous regions of north and south. Whatever you want to call it, a lot of money is pouring into this region and I even spoke with a major contractor who said the government wants to build 300,000 homes and move people eastward and unify the country. Obviously, that probably does not sit well with the 600,000 locals in the area where Spanish is a second or third language. As the once forgotten peoples of the autonomous east become more and more like strangers in their own homes, conflict is bound to happen.
   After Rama town we drove for more than 3 hours on a dirt road combined with intermittent highway construction, all the way to Pear Lagoon. Seeing the palm oil plantations stretching for 50 miles on the road and many countless miles wide was a shock to see. The mighty jungle, once teeming with life was reduced to a plantation for oil, used in foods and cosmetics. In many areas, the devastation was total, but a menacing imbalance continues. For example we spoke with a longtime local, in Pearl Lagoon, and he said, "Since they cut the down the forest, rodents and snakes have taken over the plantation lands."     

This is the loneliest tree I have ever seen. This was once "just another tree" in a sea of giant trees creating shade and offering protection for all under their canopies. Now this tree is the lone centennial in a palm plantation providing a mere glimpse of how majestic the jungle once was. Notice my friends Toyota SUV just to the left of the tree? This was not photoshopped. I deliberately took this picture to provide scale of the tree, which we estimate at 130 feet (40 meters) tall. Again, the forest was once covered in such flora but I am unable to prove it, for all is gone.   
   As with most of the world, the politics of "Now" supersede the long-term best interests of the community. Though I want to get angry at those directly involved in the wholesale slaughter of the forest, I need to first take responsibility for my own actions that contributed to this tragedy. I need to be a better consumer and buy less of these products. I need to help educate others through writing and conversations about what is really happening. I need to support good causes that protect areas for all. I desperately need to better explain what it is like to drive through (according to a map) 100 miles of jungle but actually only see 20 minutes of jungle with my own eyes. Maps make us feel good when we see reserves, national parks and protected green spaces on them. However the reality on the ground is, often, quite the contrary.
   In the jungles around the world, here included, there is a major land grab going on. There's a mad dash to get your land before the next guy, for possession is 9/10ths of the law in the frontier. Throw politics into the mix and the outcome of deforestation is seemingly unstoppable. Sadly, for every winner in this war on our forests there are untold numbers of losers.       

Church in Rama

Bridge linking west to east and with it everything else.

Lunch over looking the Rama river.

Shane demonstrating the size of speaker for a 12 foot by 20 foot dance floor.

Though parts of the road were 4x4, in another year or so, there will be a concrete highway here.

Pasture land 

Where the indigenous people and the highways intersect is always bad for their tribal ways.

Palm plantation 

Palm plantation

Elevating a highway in the pristine coastal marshlands.
Highway bisect natural waterways leaving unknown repercussions. 

Palm plantation

A major breakdown on the only east-west road stalling traffic for many hours.

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