This week, Nicaraguans celebrate La Purísima, a novena—or nine-day prayer—in honor of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, the country’s patron saint. The actual celebrations resemble a cross between Christmas, Halloween, and Carnival.
The Quixote Center’s work in Nicaragua is currently on hold following the government in Nicaragua’s decision to cancel the legal incorporation of our longtime partner, the Institute of John XXIII/Association Roncalli.
The Quixote Center has worked with the Institute since 1984, when we launched a program for the delivery of humanitarian aid during the US- imposed Contra War. After the war we continued to work with the Institute on a variety of community development, education and health projects. Our work expanded following hurricane Mitch in 1998, involving the integration of housing construction, community organizing and leadership development. Our most recent effort, Homes of Hope, built 200 homes in cooperation with housing cooperatives as well as some individual homeowners between 2017 and 2022.
The government’s decision to cancel the Institute’s legal incorporation means the Institute of John XXIII must now close. Institute staff are currently in discussion with the government concerning the distribution of Institute resources and program activity.
While the remaining staff at the Institute are in these conversations, we are also discerning the future of our work in NIcaragua.
Two weeks ago, the US House of Representatives passed the RENACER Act by a large margin with the hope, one assumes, of putting pressure on the people of Nicaragua to rethink voting for Daniel Ortega. That election took place on November 15, and Ortega won anyway - though, predictably, with opposition figures decrying the numbers.
15 years ago, we launched “Homes of Home,” our campaign to provide affordable housing to impoverished Nicaraguans since reconstruction efforts following Hurricane Mitch. In 2015, we partnered with the Roncalli Association to make housing more accessible for middle to low-income families.
On Sunday, November 7, Nicaraguans will vote for the president and vice-president of the country, as well as for the National Assembly and for Nicaragua’s representatives to the Central American Parliament. There has been a great deal of controversy about these elections circulating in the US and European media. One result is that the United States Congress just passed a new sanctions bill against Nicaragua (the RENACER Act) on Wednesday, November 3 in response to some of this controversy.
Over the weekend, I stumbled across a C-Span clip of Maureen Fiedler and Bill Callahan testifying before Congress about the U.S. embargo against Nicaragua and humanitarian aid shipments.
You can watch (or skim) the entire hearing on C-Span here. A clip of Bill and Maureen's testimony is can be viewed by clicking on the image below.
On Monday, November 16, Hurricane Iota struck Nicaragua about 15 miles from where Hurricane Eta made landfall 13 days prior.
Nicaragua was struck with a category 4 hurricane on Tuesday this week. Hurricane Eta formed and quickly strengthened in the Caribbean last week and into the weekend. It came to shore as a very strong, slow moving storm near Bilwi on the northern Atlantic coast, and cut across the northern part of the country, swelling rivers and dropping rain all around.
The famed Nicaraguan poet, priest and revolutionary Ernesto Cardenal died on March 1, 2020 at the age of 95. Over the years, many of the Quixote Center staff and our partners had met him. Even though he was a public figure, he was also known to be a man of the people, approachable and warm.
The following report is abridged from the Institute of John XXIII/Assocation Roncali's report on completing the first phase of housing in San Marcos, Nicaragua. The Quixote Center's Homes of Hope program was the principal funder of this housing initiative. We thank all of you who have supported the project thus far!