Francisco doesn’t drink. He listens. Later when we are alone he speaks out into the darkness.
“In this country, few are rich, most of us are poor and the rich don’t give the chances to those who need chances. It is like a tree with a hand over it, not giving it light.”
We look at Nicaragua on the globe in the lobby of the hotel, shining a small flashlight on the continents. We point to countries with the beam.
“There is Scotland,” I say as I point the tiny country out to him. “Al lado del Inglaterra.” Then we spin the globe.
“Y Nicaragua esta aquí.” He lays his finger over the country. We spin the globe some more. “Allí esta Estados Unidos, América, Francia, Australia.” For each country, we spin, point, examine, explore.
As the globe turns I think of home in Europe, a continent on the brink of recession, grasping onto its prosperity. I think of the USA bailing out banks and the UK handing out rescue packages to financial institutions. I think of how Europe must look to Francisco on this globe, a distant outline, a place of opportunity. I think of our advantages, of our running hot water and our grand universities and I think of all that we have broken: our crumbling communities and the poverty we hide in our own nations. I think of Nicaraguans waiting to discover who will control their municipals for the next four years. I think of stock markets where the FTSE drops, when the Dow Jones falls with no hand to catch them. I think of the way Francisco’s hand steadily holds the globe as he turns it around and around.
“Our governments want power, not better things for their people. We used to be the strongest country in Central America! Now we are the first in poverty, in illiteracy and corruption.” He pauses and stops spinning the globe. “I would like to learn English. Like most Nicaraguans, Francisco speaks only Spanish. English could mean a better job, other opportunities. He considers it a while. “Sí, quiero aprender inglés,” he confirms.
From the balcony beside our room, I watch Francisco beside the hotel listening to the sound of the world moving in the dark. I think of all the ideas he shares with us and of the municipal elections which invite Nicaraguans to vote, without seeming to listen to what they express.
The full essay is published in Kweli Journal.