Pieces of Nicaragua


The small town of Lagartillo, which barely has a population of 200 people, has seen its share of hardships. — Photo by: Stacey Hollis

Original: February 22, 2011 Issue 11

By: Stacey Hollis

Staff Writer

The small town of Lagartillo, which barely has a population of 200 people, has seen its share of hardships. -- Photo by: Stacey Hollis

An outsider’s view into the heart of Nicaragua

This past winter, I visited a small town in Nicaragua called Lagartillo. This charming little town has a population that doesn’t even top two hundred. Much of the community is related, though not to an inappropriate degree.

They are a forward-thinking bunch of genuinely kind souls. Not long after my arrival I was given a deep look into the tragic history of these strong, resilient people. I felt honored to be allowed to look back in time alongside those who had been there, who had seen.

Dec. 31 to the community of Lagartillo carries a significance far more momentous than just the eve of the new year. I arrived the morning before this long remembered day. I was told that the next morning, very early, much of the community would take part in a long walk through the country. I soon learned that this walk was to be one of heartrending remembrance.

Twenty-five years ago, the country was deep in the midst of a vicious civil war provoked by the rise of a revolution. It tore into Lagartillo that fateful last day of December and affected the town in a way that will never be forgotten.

The war began in response to the revolution that intended to create better opportunities for poverty-stricken rural population and to achieve equality between the rich and poor through land reform and education. Hospitals, schools and churches were being built throughout the country and pro-revolution communities embraced cooperative living.

The rich higher powers of Nicaragua, however, didn’t feel any desire to support these actions and, with the help and funding of the U.S. who feared Nicaragua turning into a communist state, a 10-year war ensued.

The community of Lagartillo was well known for its pro-revolutionary stance, so it was inevitable that the hostiles would come looking for them. On the morning of Dec. 31, 1984 gunshots broke through the quiet of the early morning. Women and children rose out of sleep and, as a group, ran into the forest. Some of the children didn’t even have time to put on shoes. The men went to action to defend their home, but the army was relentless. Six people died that day, four men, a woman and two teenage boys.

I could hardly imagine what terror the escaping group must have felt, with gunshots still ringing out in the distance behind them. As we followed the very same route that they took, I thought of the courage these people had conjured and the pain they endured.

Children of Lagartillo -- Photo by: Stacey Hollis

The trail was very difficult. I could not even begin to imagine carrying a baby in my arms or thinking that family members left behind were dying as I struggled through dense vegetation, down the treacherously steep path.

Each year the members of Lagartillo make this five mile walk in memory of those fallen. They place flowers on the graves of the six lost loved ones buried in the cemetery in Achuapa. We held hands in a circle around their graves as the Nicaraguans sang quiet songs in their memory.

The war finally did reach an end and the members of Lagartillo finally returned to their home to begin again. With the ideals of the early revolutionaries renewed, the community grew and thrived to become this beautiful group of people with awe-inspiring strength and spirit.

As we piled into the truck that carried us back up to Lagartillo, the proud Nicaraguans broke into song once again, this time loud, joyful and full of hope; “Lagartillo, Lagartillo, viva viva viva!”