In the high conflict areas of Central America, women are leading protests, confronting authorities, and demanding freedom – all while changing perceptions along the way. In Nicaragua, young women are on the front lines fighting against the country’s authoritative president of Daniel Ortega.

On April 18, 2018 protests broke out in the country after cuts on social-security benefits and a nationwide discontent which had been simmering for years. 

Amid the uprising, countless Nicaraguan women were aiding the injured. They organized, protested, were incarcerated, and were inside the barricades.

Between the months of April and September, Nicaraguans took to the streets to demand change. However, protesters were violently attacked by police and paramilitary groups. As a result of the brutality 300 people have died and 100,000 Nicaraguans are living in exile. Meanwhile, the government continues to illegally arrest civilians and commit crimes against humanity.

Amid the uprising, countless Nicaraguan women were aiding the injured. They organized, protested, were incarcerated, and were inside the barricades.

They were everywhere, doing everything.

Two years later, women are still playing an active role in anti-government movements in Central America. To give recognition to the resilience of Nicaraguan women, The Tempest is highlighting the plight of five young Nicaraguan women.

1. Emilia Yang Rappaccioli

Emilia speaking at AMA event
Attribution: Madres de Abril [Image description: Emilia speaking on the microphone at one of museums events. ]
Emilia is an activist, artist, and researcher who focuses her work on the role of memory. When the protest broke out in 2018 Emilia was in Los Angeles working on her PHD at the University of Southern California (USC). She returned to Nicaragua weeks later. When she arrived she immediately joined and made her mark on the anti-government demonstrations.

On June 26, 2018 paramilitaries killed Emilia’s uncle. After this tragedy, Emilia joined the Association of Mothers of April (AMA). This is an association which was created with the mission of uniting, and representing, the mothers and relatives of the people murdered from state repression in Nicaragua.

Today, Emilia is the director of the Museum of Memory against Impunity. This museum was built in conjunction with the AMA in order to dignify the victims of the state and honor their memory.

Emilia along with Nicaragua Mother of April
Attribution: Madres of Abril [Image description: Emilia is third one on the left, joined by members of AMA.]
Emilia recalls that setting up the museum’s first exhibition was emotionally draining. She interviews around 200 victims about who they were, what happened to them, and how they remember the events.

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When the museum opened its first exhibition in Nicaragua, at the University of Central America (UCA), people were able to reach out to the victims in AMA. She says this has helped Nicaraguans come  to terms with much of the pain that was caused. Most importantly, she sees how the museum has really helped people to mourn as a collective. 

Regarding the country, Emilia says there needs to be work done which is centered on understanding women rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and the rights of black folk.

2. Karen Guido

Karen dancing
Attribution: Karen Guido [Image description: Karen dancing for last day of exhibition for the Museum of Memory against Impunity.]
Karen joined the uprising from her native home of Monimbo, Nicaragua’s most rebellious town.

Traditionally, the people of Monimbo have used dance as a form of resistance and for Karen this is especially true.

In the time since the demonstrations, Karen is part of two youth led groups and gives yoga classes in the name of resistance. She describes how the on-going crisis is detrimental for one’s mental health. Yet through yoga youth will be able to cope.

She emphasizes the need for one to take care of their mental health in order to keep resisting.

One needs to take care of their mental health in order to keep resisting.

For Karen, as an avid lover of all arts, it saddens her to see how the practice of art is controlled and appropriated by the government. She dreams to live in a Nicaragua in which art is no longer politicized. She feels that individuals in Nicaragua should be allowed to express their art freely, spontaneously, and that art should be accessible for all.

Karen continues to dance for events commemorating Nicaragua’s popular uprising, as this is her way to keep the resistance alive. 

3. Nathalie Román

3. Nathalie Roman young with a megaphone
Attribution: Nathalie Roman [Image description: Picture of Nathalie Roman holding a megaphone in a manifestation.]
Nathalie is a political science student and prominent member of the Student Movement to Support Democracy (MEAD). When conflict broke out, she primarily focused on aiding the university students who were barricaded inside of the universities. At the time, she also helped construct one of the first youth movements that emerged from the protests.

Nathalie focuses her activism work on organizing student movements and advocating for the demands on university autonomy.

Her most recent project is Chacuatol Universitario, an initiative seeking to inform and involve more students in the discussion around recovering, and strengthening university autonomy. 

Nathalie understands that there needs to be change within Nicaragua’s traditional cultural political framework.

In a country in which there are mostly men making political decisions, and women’s voices are set aside, Nathalie believes that it is crucial for women to be appointed to political positions.

4. Rosi Ariana

4. Rosi Ariana
Attribution: Rosi Ariana [Image description: Picture of Rosi Ariana.]
Rosi is from Bullocks Wharf, a municipality in Nicaragua’s South Caribbean coast. She joined the protests while studying political science at Nicaragua Polytechnic University in the capital of Managua.

Due to a law that the government passed which criminalizes any form of protest, Rosi integrated herself into the April 19 Student Movement (ME19A) in order to continue organizing against the government.

Now she is the coordinator and administrator of the ongoing projects of ME19A.

Rosi is concerned with the little to no attention toward the violence Nicaraguan women face. Especially women who live in rural areas of the country, like her hometown. Rosi says that women in these kinds of areas suffer from patriarchal violence. For instance, there are cases where women are killed by their husbands, for not having food ready when they arrive home from work.

There are cases where women are killed by their husbands, for not having food ready when they arrive home from work.

Rosi values the different factors within the feminist movement, but feels there needs to be more organization towards the demands of Nicaragua’s rural women. She hopes that one day she is able to help these women by making sure they receive justice and that their cases are not left in impunity.

5. Liza Henriquez

Liza Henriquez Nicaraguan indigenous woman

Liza is from the Mosquitia region of Nicaragua, living in the municipality of Puerto Cabezas (Bilwi) in Nicaragua’s North Caribbean Coast. She’s an indigenous Miskito woman, one of the many ethnic groups in Nicaragua.

Map of Nicaragua
Attribution: Lonely Planet [Image description: Map of Nicaragua.]
Nicaragua’s indigenous and communities of Afro descendant are among the populations which have suffered the most. Liza explains that her community, predominately those of Afro-descendant, has been involved in anti-government demonstrations way before the protests of April ’18.

Liza joined the protest of April ’18 while she was living in the country’s capital of Managua. After receiving threats from government sympathizers she went back home to Bilwi in order to continue protesting.

Once she arrived there, Liza summoned herself to help organize marches, hunger strikes, and participated in putting up “tranques” or barricades. She recalls seeing a 15 year girl shot in the head by a militant during one of the demonstrations.

Liza explains that there are more cases of young indigenous and Afro descendants who have been assassinated by armed groups – yet most of these cases are left in impunity.

Now Liza continues to organize through meetings with other young indigenous from different territories. It is during these meetings that she listens to the testimonies about how colonists or invaders are exploiting the land which belong to the indigenous communities living in these territories.

As for Liza she is always going to advocate for the end of exploitation of indigenous land, justice for the fallen, the inclusion of indigenous, and Afro-descendant women in politics. Lastly, also for a real implementation of Autonomy for Nicaragua Caribbean Coast. 

Liza is always going to advocate for the end of exploitation of indigenous land, justice for the fallen, the inclusion of indigenous, and Afro-descendant women in politics. Lastly, also for a real implementation of Autonomy for Nicaragua Caribbean Coast. 

Liza says that Nicaragua is not free until the country meets those demands.

Two years since massive protests, Nicaragua continues to be an area of high conflict. Despite the risks, these 5 young Nicaraguan women continue to organize, changing the panorama of the country’s traditional political framework.

 

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Anais Catalina Gonzalez

By Anais Catalina Gonzalez

Community Fellow