I have a day off before leaving tomorrow. One of the things I agreed with Sujeylin was to go and see her in the park to say goodbye. I met (our street worker) Alejandro at 10am across the road and we proceeded to the park. Just when I was about to enter the gates, Tanya comes out (her friend) so we talk to her for a minute or two. We then turn around to make our way through and just then do I see three police officers go through the same gate I am supposed to enter only to make their way straight to Sujeylin who’s sitting by her stuff with baby Karla…
I stop breathing. Both for Sujeylin and what this could mean for them, as well as for the film as I want to capture this moment but can’t (no crew, no camera, not even a mobile phone capable of recording video). I start breathing again.
Tanya freaks out. She runs into the park and from a distance, before the police even reach Sujeylin, starts signalling to her to take the baby and come our way (to hide). But it’s too late, so Tanya makes her way over there. While the officers talk to Sujeylin, she picks up the child from her maxi cosi and simply walks over to us at the gate with the intention to leave the park and hide the baby. “They can take Sujeylin,” she says, “but they won’t take this baby.” And she’s gone.
Tanya is wise. She knows that if the police intervenes, mother and child may well be separated. In fact, Sujeylin will have to go through formalities but will be able to go back to the park within a few hours. The baby on the other hand, can be picked up and placed into a shelter. A place where she’s without her mother, without the much needed nutrition she provides, without her mother’s love, and where she might be off worse than the park. Don’t expect much of social services of the Nicaraguan government.
I’m standing there with Alejandro, at a distance, feeling incredibly powerless and also confused. What am I to think? I don’t want mother and baby to be separated, but surely the baby is not in the right place either. The police officers are right if they say to be acting in defense of the child. A baby I witnessed being born. I was there when it took her half a minute to start breathing, I heard her first cry and was relieved and moved to tears, I followed her everywhere these past three weeks… So what’s best? I decide to be on the mother’s side, whatever the circumstances. I want what Sujeylin wants.
A little later the police officers move away towards the other dwellers of the park. They register everyone and write down names and stuff. As soon as they are at a distance, we walk over to Sujeylin who is visibly shaken and crying. “They told me that if I’m still here on Monday, they’ll come and pick me and Karla up,” she says. We are relieved. She has time. And on Monday, no doubt she’ll be hanging out elsewhere. “Where is Juan Carlos?” I ask her. “I don’t know. He got drunk last night and I think he still is. Haven’t seen him.”
No doubt they’ll be fighting today, over him not being there when most needed. Better for him, because he has two pending court cases. If they find him, he’s back in jail probably. And Sujeylin without financial support.
What a complicated life. And all that, in both their cases, for having been rejected by their parents (she by her mother and he by his father) and for being poor. Where will this go? And my main question, the one I ask in the film: how will Karla come out of it? What will her life be like in a year? And in five years? Ten? Twenty?
Sujeylin calms down and I give her her presents as a very small token for the incredible generosity she has offered in letting us into her life – in good and bad times. She gets some more cream and talcon powder for the baby, an umbrella to provide shade for her and Karla, four printed pictures (one of Nasli, whom she doesn’t have an image of) and a few more things. She’s over the shock and reasonably happy and joky right now. The last two times we said goodbye she was crying, but now she’s good. She asks me for a mobile phone so we can remain in touch, which I promise to arrange for her before the 15th of April. That’s the day she has a second check-up with the baby, and after that, she plans on going back to live with her mother in Chontales. To work the land in the country, be with Nasli, and raise Karla Asuliet in a protected and drug-free environment where basic needs are met.
Will she manage? Time (and this documentary) will tell.