Here I am, back in my struggling city of New Orleans after a couple of summer months writing a book on Nicaragua. The working title is Going to Nicaragua. Epigraph: “People don’t give a good damn about Latin America” – Richard M. Nixon. SIxty-five percent of U.S. citizens say they don’t follow international news because they feel they don’t have the “background” to understand it.

With this huge challenge, why am I writing a book about Nicaragua? Because I belong to a solidarity group, Friends of Batahola, which helps keep a community center going in a very poor barrio, Batahola Norte, in Managua, Nicaragua. A Sister from our St. Joseph congregation, Margie Navarro, started the Center in 1983 as the U.S.-supported Contra war was raging. Before Margie’s death in 2001 I made a promise to keep the Center going and to write a book about the struggles of the people. In the book, I’ll also tell Margie’s story and my own journey there.

This is my first book not directly on the death penalty, but I see all kinds of connections. U.S. policy supporting the Contra war and present economic “restructuring” programs demanded by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank put the majority of Nicaraguan people under another kind of death sentence: a life of impoverishment, disease, and early death. All with U.S. support.

In the book I’ll tell stories of the women who come to the center for sewing, baking, literacy, computer skills, and spiritual support. Almost every one of them has had to overcome obstacles from husbands who accused them of going to the Center to “meet a man.” To get to the Center, one of the women, Rita, jumped out of the back window when her husband barred the front door to prevent her leaving.

As Kurt Vonnegut says, “And so it goes…”

Anybody out there with a wide heart – you are hereby cordially invited to contribute to Friends of Batahola (it’s tax deductible). I’ll be visiting the Center in Managua November 22-29.

This visit to Nicaragua will come shortly after my attending the gathering in Fort Benning, Georgia, November 18-19 to close down the School of the Americas. Over the past twenty years more than 60,000 Latin American military “leaders” have been trained at SOA by the U.S. Trained in torture and assassinations (the torture manual was made public in 1993).

Every year, 10,000 plus people (many college-age adults) attend the teach-ins and sacred ceremony to commemorate the thousands of compesinos killed or “disappeared” in Latin America. I go every year and give a talk. The event has become a matrix for social activists from all over the country. If you’ve never been, you ought to treat yourself.  The event is spirited and grounded. Being with the people and hearing the stories gets your justice-seeking soul energized. Check out School of the Americas Watch.

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