A reflection on the 2021 Agri-Cultural Brigade
ATC Editors’ Note: In collaboration with the ATC, Friends of the ATC facilitates a small internship program for learners (usually university students or recent graduates) who are committed to solidarity with social movements. Each intern has a unique experience and brings a unique perspective and contribution to the ATC while they are in Nicaragua. In this post we share with you an article written by ATC intern from Fall 2021, MB Grimes.
As the 2021 Friends of ATC Agri-Cultral brigade comes to an end, participating members including myself return back to our lives with a shifted perspective, a stronger understanding of Nicaragua and its struggle, culture and people, as well as hope and inspiration.
Like-minded individuals from the United States, Mexico, Japan, Hong Kong, Borinquen, Dominican Republic, Honduras and Nicaragua gathered together in Nicaragua from September 3-13th to build solidarity, exchange knowledge and culture, and learn through experience — specifically in the campo (countryside) of Nicaragua through agroecology. Members of the delegation eagerly gathered in Managua first to learn the history of Nicaragua and the Sandinista Revolution, which included touring the capital city, discovering historical sites, and enjoying community offerings in Managua, such as the beautiful Luis Alfonso Velasquez Park and the Salvador Allende Port. We learned that 45% of the population in Nicaragua live in the campo, and over 90% of the food consumed in Nicaragua is produced within the country.
The following day, we split into two groups to begin our travels to the rural farming communities of Santa Julia with the Cooperative Gloria Quintanilla R. L and La Montañita community at the ATC’s agroecological demonstration plot on the Cruz family farm. Both groups had profound experiences at each location, focusing largely on discussions with community members, exchanging questions, stories, culture, and food while also working and living the life of a campesinx (peasant). In La Montañita, community members shared specifically about government social programs and country-wide advancements since the end of the neoliberal period (1990-2006). Since Daniel Ortega’s presidency, the country has increased country-wide access to electricity from 54% to 98.5%, increased renewable energy from 25% to 75.9%, all while rolling out literacy programs, affordable housing, school nutrition programs, and de-privatizing health care and education. As I talked with community members, I noticed a heavy emphasis on the role of women and youth in their fight, reiterating their commitment to gender equality and youth activism and engagement. Not only were there insightful facilitated conversations, but learning opportunities on how to use agroecology as a means for food sovereignty to build solidarity.
After a couple of days in each community, the groups joined together at the Latin American Agroecological Institute (IALA) to continue learning alongside campesinxs in Nicaragua and participate in hands-on work in the campo. We harvested and learned the process of beans, made animal feed, prepared beds for planting, milked cows, and shared knowledge with one another, while also quickly learning the hard working reality for campesinxs and their long days in the fields. While some members conducted interviews with community members in preparation for information sharing in their home countries, others helped paint a mural at IALA to represent agroecology, food sovereignty and solidarity. A passionate, artistic comrade mentioned to me during our brigade that “no revolution happened without art” which fueled my desire to complete the mural as a means for solidarity. We collectively acknowledged the high volume of murals and art all throughout the country of Nicaragua, with strong imagery and messages to the public about the fight in Nicaragua.
We left IALA with full brains and full hearts, new friendships and… smelly clothes. It was time to return back to Managua to close out our brigade with more learning and sharing, but also fun. We spent our last day touring the home of Sandino in Niquinohomo, a monumental experience for many as the legacy of Sandino lives on powerfully in Nicaragua and around the world. We were able to explore the city of Masaya and its volcano, buy souvenirs, and we were even treated to a live music performance from Diego Aguirre, a fellow Sandanista musician well known in Nicaragua.
As the delegation came to a close, I felt overwhelmed with knowledge and new insight. We collectively learned an immense amount from the people in Nicaragua but also from one another. I noticed throughout the delegation that each member held different strengths and weaknesses, and when combining these we become stronger as we fight for the rights of the peoples of Nicaragua and also globally.
From my own observations, I noticed that the reality of campesinxs in Nicaragua is starkly different from the picture painted by mainstream, neoliberal news. Nicaraguans take pride in their country, their president, and their revolution. There are numerous existing programs from the socialist government that increase access to basic needs and the people feel the government is there to support them.
From here, it’s up to us to spread our knowledge, challenge the norm presented by the mainstream, and fight for the rights of workers. Overall, I would recommend this brigade as a means to educate oneself on the true realities of the people in Nicaragua and to stand in solidarity as they continue their fight.
Here are what some of the other brigadistas shared about their experience:
“It’s inspiring to be in a country that has not only had a successful socialist revolution but has been able to overcome a coup attempt and continues to build resources for its people. Nicaragua is an example of successful anti-imperialist struggle that more people should know about.”
– Troi Valles, USA
“This trip with Friends of the ATC has allowed me to observe, learn and put theory into action. Specifically, learning and experiencing the successes and hardship of Nicaragua, FSLN, and how they been able to remain sovereign despite the direct attacks and sanctions of US imperialism. Learning how to pick beans, make biointensive beds amongst so much other things. What I have witnessed proves 3 things: revolution is possible anywhere, socialism in action is what every country needs and deserves, and what western media says about Nicaragua is a lie.”
– Libre X. Sankara, USA
“I can already feel that this delegation will prove to have been one of the more transformative and inspiring times of my life. I am extremely grateful to have come across Friends of the ATC and the delegations they offer, and to everyone who makes them possible. After going through the Agri-Cultural Brigade delegation, I feel much more confident and capable in many ways than I was before: in my Spanish skills, in my ability to contribute physical labor, in my ability to adapt and try new things, and in my personal power and responsibility to be an active part of collective struggle and transformation (among others). I also made many friends and established many good connections, which is very important for our goal of international solidarity.”
– Jade Johannesen , USA
Globalicemos la lucha!
Globalicemos la esperanza!