Murillo wants Nicaragua to clean up its act

Nicaraguans like to joke that their “national flower” is the ubiquitous multi-colored plastic bag that litters the sides of highways and speckles the countryside with brilliant, non-biodegradable hues.

The saddest part of that joke is that Nicaraguan litterbugs—like modern day Johnny Appleseeds—are the ones responsible for spreading these filthy “flowers” across the country by throwing trash from bus windows, tossing it from park benches or simply dropping it where they stand.

But as tourism grows, so too has the demand that Nicaragua start to clean up after itself. After all, if you’re going to invite someone over your house, the least you can do is pick up the garbage off the living room floor before answering the door.

Keeping Nicaragua clean is not just about tidying up for tourists. Garbage strewn about the streets is a serious health and sanitation problem that speaks of poor education and a lack of self-esteem. No one should live in squalor.

That’s why first lady Rosario Murillo is calling on Nicaragua to clean up its act.

Under the tautological banner of “Live Clean, Live Healthy, Live Pretty, Live Well,” the first lady has launched a “permanent campaign” to neaten Nicaragua by convincing folks to not use the streets as an open-air dumpsters.

Rosario Murillo

Concerned about aesthetics: Rosario Murillo (GRAPHOS / Producciones)

The clean-up campaign is being coordinated with members of the Sandinista Youth who have been organizing street mime exhibitions and neighborhood trash collections to educate people about the importance of keeping public areas clean.

“When we convert these areas into trash heaps, when we make our immediate surroundings and public areas ugly, that is aggression—it’s a lack of love and we are called to mind the beauty, for our sense of self-esteem and respect, to respect ourselves, to love ourselves, and to care for ourselves, which is also about caring for harmony and for the aesthetics of daily life beyond poverty; we can be poor but clean, poor but honorable, with community and nature,” Murillo said on a full lung of air during a recent broadcast carried by her family-run media outlets.

The first lady said that the government will work to keep to keep public areas tidy and government buildings freshly painted.

“We can’t keep converting the parks we open into dumps that are lacking in love, lacking in health, lacking in esthetics, lacking in Christianity, because that is a lack of community spirit, a lack of wellbeing and service to our fellow man, love and service to our fellow man,” she said.

Murillo said government workers should also be “clean, neatly kept, and aesthetic,” because cleanliness “begins with us.”

Poverty, Murillo said, is no excuse for messiness.

“It’s one thing to be in a situation of economic need, but it’s another thing not to be clean, orderly, neatly kept or loving,” Murillo said.

Despite Murillo’s calls for tidiness and the Sandinista Youth’s sporadic trash-collection efforts in different barrios, it’s still unclear what makes the first lady’s cleanliness crusade permanent or systematic. The first lady has not announced any school-wide education campaign or comprehensive neighborhood outreach programs, nor has the government spokeswoman mentioned any improvements to state sanitation services, recycling programs or waste-disposal alternatives.

  • Brian

    A good idea for a change … But the proof is in the putting.

  • Nick

    It has long been said.. being poor does not mean being ugly or stupid.

  • flaco delgado

    El Rosario, Carazo has no trash problem. Why? They have trash receptacles everywhere. It’s no great mystery that when there is no good place to put the trash, you will have a trash problem. When I have trash, I put it in my pocket until I get home. There is usually no other alternative. Give people a place to put their trash — problem solved. Rocket science it ain’t.

    • Don

      Trash needs a convenient place to live. Flaco gets it!
      Large, attractive trash recepticals are an absolute first step. If there are not appropriate trash recepticals, the effort will be lost. The recepticals are the easy part. Addorn them with Murillo’s slogan “Live Clean, Healthy, Pretty and Well. The other half is a cultural shift for people to use them. That takes time, patients and learning by example. Provide the Clean and Pretty recepticals: the Healthy and Well people will respond.

    • ells

      El Rosario is an amazing example. I wonder if there’s a way that they can spread their model to Jinotepe!

  • nicafred

    Politics aside, I salute the First Lady for bringing this problem to the fore. Trash and littering are twin plagues that blight our beautiful Nicaragua. It can be cured through education and public awareness. Remember- smart chickens don’t crap in their nests.

  • mnelson

    San Marcos, Cz., is another really good example of a clean city. Women with trash barrels, shovels and brooms continuously cleaning the streets. How hard would it be for the Sandanistas to buy trash barrels on wheels and a broom and shovel?

  • Chavalo808

    so does anyone know what her official title and responsibilities are in this government? Or is it just the “First Lady” and she gets to do whatever/whenever she wants?

  • Kelvin

    Yes, she does have an official title. Its: Coordinadora del Consejo de Comunicación y Ciudadanía.

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