Today was our second attempt at capturing boyfriend Felix going to work. I thought it was just going to be him boarding a bus and then getting off at the gates of a factory, over which I can then put Sujeylin in voice-over talking about him. But it was much more impressive than that
The Chinese-owned confection industry is huge. And the less than 10 minutes I was able to shoot were impressive. First, Felix was waiting for the bus at 6AM close to his home with some friends/colleagues under a tree. When the bus arrived, I noticed it was so full of workers that people were hanging from the doors. But Felix & co. were used to this, and while some pushed their way into the overcrowded decommissioned American school bus, Felix and two more guys climbed onto the hood! Yep, the cover of the engine in front of the windshield, leaving only a small space for the driver to be able to look past them. We obviously didn’t fit, and I certainly didn’t feel like seriously risking my life and climb up there with them, so we followed in our own vehicle – overtaking the bus and stopping twice to film it whizz by. That in itself was risky enough with the speed the bus driver was employing over those potholed dirt roads. See photo. He is the guy in the yellow shirt.
But the best part was the factory itself. When we arrived, I saw literally tens of thousands of people streaming into this industrial estate on foot. It was so impressive. I am guessing that there are some 15 large-size factories there, all in this special tax-free industrial estate I mentioned in an earlier post. People are bussed in to somewhere near the entrance, and then continue on foot. It kind of felt like when you leave a class A concert (the Stones, Springsteen, Madonna – that kind of thing). There were a few market stalls near the entrance selling pastries and drinks, and religious guidance was provided for by an evangelist who got his speaker system plugged into the guard’s office in order to spit out a continuous flow of over-modulated one-liners about the joy of working and loving Jesus Christ. No comment.
I was seriously overwhelmed, and started thinking about my next film… which can’t be in Managua because it is simply too far away :-). Oh well, maybe the one after that.
What I also noticed today were some of the public services in this city. A garbage truck drove by and on it was painted: Cooperación Italiana (Italian Development Agency). Then we passed a fire station, and I noticed that each one of the three fire trucks were entirely different. One was second-hand donated by some town in the United States (a long ladder-one with a steering wheel at the rear of the trailer), another was Japanese and yet another one European. This is second-hand country! All city buses are ex-U.S. school buses – most with some of the original English writing: “this vehicle doesn’t turn right at red” or “so-and-so School District”, with “so-and-so” painted over in black to cover up its original owner. Most are in such bad shape that they would be ready to be recycled in most other countries.
Having woken up at five, with mild lack of sleep my imagination always seems to work better. So I started to see the image of a country which can’t pay for its basic public service vehicles and where jobs are generated by big foreign companies offering inhuman conditions and who in return are able to negotiate not to have to pay any tax. Then there are signs everywhere promoting the 30th anniversary of the revolution where the big theme is “libre” (free as in freedom). Even its international airport is formally called “Augusto Sandino Nicaragua Libre.” Less tax income, no public services, freedom…
Maybe it’s just me, but what if those companies would pay tax and respect working conditions? The sleeves on our Marco Polo shirts would probably increase in cost by very little. With the tax, public services could be improved and paid for… (duh). And with improved working conditions, people could pay income tax as well. A double whammy for Nicaragua! Instead, it’s a bankrupt nation of people who are continuously ripped off – by their employer, by the government, even by their mobile phone company.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m blabbing or talking out of my neck. But surely there’s some sense here?