Like many Nicas, I left my beloved Nicaragua in the 1980s during to the war between the Sandinistas and Contras. I immigrated to the United States, where I still live today. I married a wonderful woman and we now have two beautiful daughters.
I know that by virtue of being born in the United States, my daughters will identify as Americans. But I also want my daughters to know they have a connection to Nicaragua. I want them to know that their roots extend all the way to the land of lakes and volcanoes. I wish for my daughters to love Nicaragua the way I love it, and not think of it as just a place where their father was born.
I realize this will not be easy. We live in the U.S. and we can’t visit Nicaragua as much as I would like. But I have two powerful allies to help me: my daughters’ abuelitos. My parents were born in Nicaragua and they can tell my daughters stories about our family, our country, and its people. We Nicaraguans enjoy a great oral tradition, and I can’t think of a better way for children to learn about their father’s birthplace than through their grandparents.
My parents lived in New York when my first daughter was born. She was their first grandchild, and they love her with an intensity that rivals only her parents’ love. Through my mother’s excellent cooking, my daughter learned to love gallo pinto, tortillas and many other dishes beloved by all Nicas. I confess that I too tried to make gallo pinto for my daughter, but failed miserably; there is nothing like abuelita’s gallo pinto. My tortillas, however, were a success, and are often call for encore. You could say my daughter’s love for Nicaragua started in her belly.
My parents have since fulfilled my father’s retirement wish and have repatriated back to Nicaragua. We visited them last Christmas. It was my oldest daughter’s second trip to Nicaragua, and her baby sister’s first. We stayed in Granada, where my oldest daughter loved riding in horse-drawn carriages and enjoyed eating pizza and ice cream on Calle la Calzada. We ate gallo pinto every morning for breakfast.
We were lucky to stay at a grand colonial house, where a dove made her nest in a palm tree and a hummingbird would visit the flowers in the garden every day. My daughter found all this fascinating—it was all new to her. She now has a toy perrozompopo, named after the tiny lizards found in every home in Nicaragua.
We also visited my childhood home in Managua. What used to be my bedroom has now been designated as my daughters’ room in her grandparents’s house. My sister, who still lives with my parents, loves animals. She has four chocoyos, the little green parakeets found in most Nicaraguan households. She also has a dog, which my eldest daughter loved. My daughter now wants to save all the bones from her chicken dinners for the dog in Nicaragua. When I was kid in Managua, my parents would buy me firecrackers for Christmas and New Year’s, a tradition that I was happy to see still exists and one I wanted my daughter to experience for herself (under supervision, of course).
Every weekend, we talk to my parents in Nicaragua on Skype. Even though it is through a computer, this has allowed my parents to see their beloved granddaughters, who love to show their grandparents their toys. It also allows my daughters a chance to see the dog and chocoyos they befriended in Nicaragua. Thanks to the Internet, their grandparents and Nicaragua don’t have to be a fuzzy memory.
Living now for many years in the U.S., I’ve met many people whose children have no connection whatsoever to the places their parents came from, nor are they interested in finding out. I never wanted that for my children. I know many Nicas living abroad feel the way I do because the plane from to Miami to Managua is always full of children, probably on their way to spend their summer with grandparents and relatives in the old country. My wish for my children is that they know and love Nicaragua, because it is worth loving and their roots start there. I hope that they will want to visit Nicaragua on their own when they are old enough. And hopefully, one day, they will take their children there.
Guillermo Perez was born in Managua, Nicaragua. He lives in New York, where he is working on launching his own blog.