April in Nicaragua is hot and dry. In a blog post from October 2016 I referenced a poem by Nicaraguan poet Ernesto Cardenal called Hora Cero, in which the poet contrasts the dry and rainy seasons of Nicaragua. Here is the stanza where he describes the month of April:
En abril, en Nicaragua, los campos están secos.
Es el mes de las quemas de los campos,
del calor, y los potreros cubiertos de brasas,
y los cerros que son de color de carbón;
del viento caliente, y el aire que huele a quemado,
y de los campos que se ven azulados por el humo
y las polvaredas de los tractores destroncando;
de los cauces de los ríos secos como caminos
y las ramas de los palos peladas como raíces;
de los soles borrosos y rojos como sangre
y las lunas enormes y rajas como sales,
y las quemas lejanas, de noche, como estrellas
[In April, in Nicaragua, the fields are dry.
It’s the month of the burning of the fields,
of heat, of pastures covered with embers,
and hills the color of coal;
of hot winds, and air that smells burned,
of fields that look blue because of the smoke
and dust storms from the tractors;
of the riverbeds dry as roads
and the branches of the trees as bare as roots;
of hazy suns red like blood
and giant moons and crystalline craters,
and burnings off in the distance, at night, like stars ]
A more apt description of April in Nicaragua was never written. But though it may sound miserable, it’s really not all that bad. This week is Semana Santa, or Holy Week. Many Nicaraguans are headed to beach towns like Poneloya, Masachapa, or San Juan del Sur for vacation. In the town of San Ramón, the local Catholic church is holding processions and masses for the faithful, and a number of activities will be hosted by City Hall to celebrate the holiday. In the rural communities of San Ramón, ladies are making tamales pisques, which are a special type of tamal with beans mixed into the cornmeal. It’s a time of celebration and rest, when even the hardworking farmers of rural Nicaragua give themselves permission to a long weekend.
As Semana Santa comes to an end, so will the dry season. At least, we hope so. The rainy season normally begins in May, but the effects of climate change are intensely felt here, and seasons are not as predictable as they once were. But if we’re lucky, the rainy season will begin in May, which means planting will begin, trees and flowers will bloom, and the rivers will be full again.
In many rural parts of Nicaragua, people do not have running water in their homes. They haul water in buckets for cooking and drinking, and they take their clothes down to the river to wash them and bathe themselves. In communities where the source of water is on someone’s property, the community is at the mercy of that person’s goodwill. In drought-prone communities, the months of March and April can be especially difficult.
In the past, SCSRN has contributed to water projects in both urban and rural parts of San Ramón, and this year we invested once again in a water project in the community of Hilapo #1 with the help of the South Granville Rotary Club. In addition to building a pre-school classroom, a school kitchen, and installing an electrical system, we worked together to build a water system that pumps water to the highest point in the community, which is the primary school. From there, San Ramón City Hall is taking over to distribute the water to the 15 surrounding homes, and to create a Water Committee to manage and maintain the system. The community is overjoyed to not only have a steady water source at the school for the children, but also have running water in every home in the community!
The water source for this project is a natural spring that was donated by a member of the community. The sustainability of this source depends on the commitment of the people of HIlapo #1 to keep the spring forested and uncontaminated by cattle and other pollutants. These people can see directly how their actions impact the environment, and therefore their own livelihood.
As we at SCSRN enjoy the heat of Semana Santa (or suffer through it, depending on one’s perspective), we’re glad to know that in Hilapo #1, people are enjoying an abundance water in their homes, something that they are experiencing for the first time. That is definitely something to celebrate!