Going into the final week

As you know, I cut the trip short by a week. Tomorrow we enter day 14 of the shoot, which finishes on Friday. My flight home leaves on Sunday. Of course I’ll be back – in (or around) June, September and in March of 2010. But for now, we’re almost there.

My first week here saw the birth of Karla Asuliet. We spent two very beautiful days in hospital, after which the family settled back in their regular environment: the park. Soon however, they moved to a small rented space. Sujeylin recovered from the operation, they settled in, and things were relatively calm despite the ever-present lack of cash.

The second week was marked by our visit to Sujeylin’s family in Chontales, first in Villa Sandino and later in the countryside to pick up her mother. Tension in the family was very obvious and despite the visit seeming to be quite pleasant for all involved, there was a lot of unspoken stuff flying around. They had no option but to return to Managua (something they had always planned but it was clear that staying also became an option, and then not).

I haven’t had time to study the material at length, but I think this first trip will count for the majority of the material which will end up in the film. Maybe two-thirds. Of that part, I think 95% was shot during these first two weeks.

My expectations for the third week are that reality will hit hard. Besides a medical check-up for the baby tomorrow, there are no scheduled events planned. We’ll just be hanging around all day, for five days, observing how they go about organizing their lives. The honeymoon period is over. I think it is known by now that I suspect they will settle back in the park at some point. We might even find them there tomorrow, I don’t know. Not that I want that for them, but I think it is their harsh reality. Stay tuned for news.

Something else I have been thinking about this weekend. I have realized that globalization is not so great for third-world countries. Take the mobile phone companies. In Nicaragua, there are two: Claro, an American multinational, and Movistar, of Spanish communications giant Telefonica (some of the biggest and brightest thieves around). And their abusive pricing schemes simply make me sick. Most people here have prepaid phones, because they can’t afford contracts. Calling to a number of the same operator is priced regularly (to Western standards) but calling the other operator is criminally expensive. This is their (failed) way to get entire families and groups of friends to get the same operator. And because there is no consumer’s ombudsman, nor a collective sense of popular justice, these multinationals suck these poor people for their last dollars through abusive tactics which in their own countries would be condemned publicly and legally. Many people simply can’t afford to call friends or family known to belong to the “other” operator, cutting them off from each other. And people here are so poor, that they often charge their phones with one or two dollars at a time. Meanwhile, both Claro and Movistar don’t fail to spend huge sums of money on deceptive life-style-type advertising. What’s more, if you don’t use your account for about six weeks, they simply keep the money and it expires (this is the case everywhere with prepaid phones, but not in six weeks!)

Another example is Coca-Cola, which is actually cheaper than milk here. Children, especially those outside of Managua in the countryside, are fed daily on a diet of only corn tortillas, rice, beans and Coca-Cola. Parents even give it to their babies in their feeding bottle. And it’s everywhere. You can’t get away from it. Meanwhile, there are no government campaigns about health-related issues, nutrition, dental care, etc etc. It’s so frustrating to witness.

But, the greatest example must be the cobbler’s glue the street children sniff. It is estimated that between 70 and 100 million liters of glue exported MONTHLY by U.S. companies to all of Latin America ends up getting sold as drugs to street children. But the shocking thing is that this type of solvent-based (toluene or cyclohexane) glue is illegal in the U.S. itself because it is a health hazard. It can be made there, but not sold to the public. And for the American readers of this blog: don’t worry, we’re all guilty. Exactly the same story with pesticides made in one of the most socially conscious countries in the world: Denmark. And there are millions of examples. It’s very sad.

So far my sermon of the day. Now for something lighter.

Today I had lunch with Ramon Mejia, who (known as PerroZompopo) is one of the country’s few truly successful (and famous) artists on the music scene and also known well all over Central America. I don’t know if he’d like the comparison to Bob Dylan, but he is a politically engaged song writer and performer comparable to Dylan’s earlier days (except for his songs about drugs…). In fact, a better comparison is Maná, or in Spain Pedro Guerra. Anyway, Ramon is going to write a song for the credits of the film dedicated to Sujeylin and her baby. I have always wanted to engage artists from Nicaragua and the production people had given me one of his CD’s in January. On Friday he gave a concert, which I attended and where I spoke to him about the film. We agreed to meet today and he was impressed by the project. It’s exactly his line of work: human rights, women’s issues, infancy, education, migration, that realm. So, I’m honoured and very happy with this new creative contribution to the project. Of course we’re more than a year away from having to worry about the credits and its music, but I think it’s important to get these things going. And he was inspired enough to assure me that he could have a song this very same evening! I enclose a picture.


One thought on “Going into the final week

  1. Had not been able to read the blog for some time but I am catching up now. Glad that the documentary is developing well and that you have been able to contact Ramon. Probably he / that may help getting attention for it in South America as well!

    I agree with you that some of the things that you mention in today’s story are very shocking. Those companies obviously do not add any value to integrity, and suffer from a ‘disease’ that financial institutions suffered for many, many years but which now is changing.

    Luckily your documentary will help to expose this type of behavior of companies and eventually things will change.

    Looking forward to having you back in Spain!



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