Last week was a difficult one for me here in Bilwi. The civil unrest of a few weeks ago blew over with a bunch of people arrested, a few injuries, and one death due to heart attack brought on by exposure to tear gas. School started again, just in time for Autonomy Day and Día de los Difuntos. It all amounts to far too many days off school, especially for kids who struggle with long term recall as it is.
This week also saw the departure of two dear friends. After we moved out of our previous house, I continued to return occasionally to visit Miguel, one of the guys who lived there, and Blanca, the puppy. The companionship of both of them helped anchor me during my transition to living here. Miguel was frequently around to talk to, and he often could commiserate because he had only recently moved here, and Blanca was always around to comfort me if I felt lonely. Last Monday, Miguel told me that he was moving back to his home city of Bluefields, and the owner of the house had given Blanquita to someone else.
Later, after the other housemate Eric had gone to bed, he told me the truth about the puppy. After coming back from a largely unsuccessful fishing expedition, Eric got very drunk and killed her. He said he was going to put her out of her misery because there was nothing to feed her. Miguel loved the puppy, and when there wasn´t money for dog food he shared his own dinner with her. Before he left town, he encouraged me not to come by the house ever again.
I´m grieved by what happened, and haunted by the widespread violence here, bred by poverty. I have acquired several bruises caused by my frequent tripping on the uneven roads here, but no one believes me when I tell them I fell, though only Miguel pressed me about it. I´m haunted by the fact that Blanquita is not the only victim of this displaced aggression. I have no idea how many kids I work with are beaten for similar reasons, but I know it´s far too many. I only see some of the bruises.
Poverty is no excuse for violence. Period. But poverty is its own kind of violence. It twists people and relationships into desperate, horrendous messes. Messes with no easy answers.