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A Revolution of Music and Poetry From Behind the Computer Screens of Nicaragua

Una niña en el vertedero de basura de La Chureca Landfill busca juguetes y otros objetos de interés. Los trabajadores de vertederos  llevan una vida  difícil en el basurero a cielo abierto más grande de América Central. Fotografía tomada por Misha Tulek. Copyright © Demotix. 13/10/2009

A child at a trash dump in La Chureca in Managua, Nicaragua, looking for toys and other objects of interest. The workers at these facilities lead difficult lives in the biggest open-air dumps in Central America. Photograph taken by Misha Tulek. Copyright © Demotix. October 13, 2009.

Heydi Hortega's Monologue of Nicaraguan Youth in the 21st Century came a year ago, at the beginning of 2015, but her words are just as relevant now as they were then. In the monologue, an open letter published on the website Conexiones (an online space dedicated to young bloggers), Heydi discussed what defines her generation, explaining how today's youth seeks both local and foreign connections, as well as a role in the social movements taking place on the streets and on the Web:

Nuestros abuelos y nuestros padres incansablemente nos repiten “en mis tiempos” aquí, “en mis tiempos” allá todo es relacionado a sus tiempos, aunque eso moleste a la actual juventud. Hasta cierto punto tienen razón. En sus tiempos los jóvenes eran más dedicados a los estudios, no obstante a los impedimentos de una educación pública en los 50´s y 60´s y enfocados en los aspectos socio-políticos de la nación y la cultura.

Our parents and grandparents are constantly telling us, “in my day” this, “in my day” that. They compare everything to in their day, which is frustrating for the youth of today. And they're right—up to a certain point. In their day, young people were more dedicated to their studies, despite the restrictions in public education of the 1950s and 60s. And they cared about culture and the socio-politics of the nation.

Hay que recordar que los tiempos de los cuales hablan estuvieron marcados por dictaduras, guerras e intervenciones, por ello, el orgullo patriótico y la efervescencia de la juventud los encaminaron a buscar una solución al caos que vivía el país. Músicos, revolucionarios, poetas, artistas, maestros, periodistas y un sin número de hombres y mujeres determinadas/os fueron el resultado de las luchas y son quienes ahora nos dicen que mal gastamos nuestras energías en cosas insignificantes.

You have to remember that the times they are talking about were characterized by dictators, wars, and interventions. National pride and the effervescence of youth spurred them to find a solution to the chaos prevalent in the country. Musicians, revolutionaries, poets, artists, masters, journalists, and countless determined men and women were born from conflict and are the same people who now tell us that we waste our energy on meaningless things.

Heydi underlined the generational differences and the way in which the consequences of Nicaraguan history mark her youth today, as she sees herself surrounded by difficult economic and social challenges. She also explained how her generation wants to be part of a global society linked with other social movements, while at the same time remaining connected with national realities.

Sí. Nos creemos socialmente proactivos porque hemos decidido escuchar las canciones de los Mejía Godoy para entender la historia de las cuales nos hablan, los textos de historia nos parecen aburridos –la música es una salida fácil–, hemos decidido hablar de Rubén Darío [el poeta más reconocido del país] porque en Nicaragua, prácticamente lo veneran y no queremos parecer ignorantes aunque no conozcamos más de cinco de sus escritos. Por supuesto no podemos dejar de odiar a la dictadura Somocista [de Anastasio Somoza, presidente de Nicaragua en los años 50] aunque ni siquiera conozcamos el orden de gobierno de los Somozas.

Yes, we tell ourselves we're socially proactive because we choose to listen to the Mejía Godoys and we learn about our history from their songs, we find history textbooks boring, and music is an easy way out. We choose to talk about Ruben Dario [the country's best known poet] because in Nicaragua our country practically worships him and we don't want to seem ignorant, even if we don't know more than five of his works. Of course, we can't help but hate the Somocista dictatorship [of Anastasio Somoza, president of Nicaragua in the 1950s], even if we weren't around in the Somoza era.

Obviar el contexto mundial sería un desastre, por eso somos fieles fanáticos de los Beatles, los Rollings Stones, Guns´s and Roses, Nirvana, Pin Floyd, Fito Páez, Mercedes Sosa, Bob Marley, por supuesto Silvio Rodríguez y el Che, sosteniendo fielmente que [el Che] es cubano.  Los grandes representantes de la literatura no pueden quedar fuera. Amamos los escritos de Gabriel García Márquez y Mario Benedetti, aunque no distingamos quién es quién. Sí, los amamos, son lo más “in”.

Being unaware of the global context would be a disaster, and that is why we are fanatically loyal to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Guns n Roses, Nirvana, Pink Floyd, Fito Páez, Mercedes Sosa, Bob Marley, Silvio Rodriguez, of course, and Che, who we proudly insist is Cuban. Not forgetting the literary masters, we love the works of Gabriel Garcia Márquez and Mario Bendetti, although we couldn't distinguish between the two. Yes, we love them. They are so “in.”

Heydi's writing is a mixture of self-defense and self-deprecation. It's an attempt to account for the part of youth that shows no interest in the world, while also throwing a spotlight on the part that does:

Hacemos revolución, poesía y música desde los monitores de nuestras computadoras, en las pistas de las discotecas y expresamos lo que sentimos en las “selfies”. Ignoramos la realidad y por ello le echamos la culpa a todos, al gobierno por ejemplo, menos a nosotros mismos.

We are starting a revolution, making poetry and music from behind our computer screens, or on the dancefloors at nightclubs; we are expressing our feelings through our “selfies.” We ignore reality and instead we cast the blame on everyone else—the government, for example. Anyone but ourselves.

The debate, which was followed and discussed on the platform Disqus, brought to light many issues that are common ground for young people from the rest of the region. The way the Internet is used for participation and building identity, the responsibility in the use of information, and the role of the media (and the values it promotes) were resounding issues in the debate and triggered observations that could well be adapted to numerous realities over the rest of the continent, and even to many societies outside the Americas. According to Israel Hernández, who took part in the debate:

Solo pensar en con la juventud de ahora es muy “revolucionaria” sin siquiera saber el significado de la palabra y sus orígenes, muchos jóvenes de ahora han vivido alrededor de una sociedad opresora (sin necesidad de armas), la cual con estereotipos e información innecesaria (libros, películas, la [telenovela] de las 6 y así hasta las 10 que termina la tanda, series televisivas la cual promueve la promiscuidad y sobre todo la presión social de “estar a la moda”) ha generado un simulacro de la “realidad” que no se vive.

Just think about how “revolutionary” the youth of today is without even really knowing the significance of the word or its origins. Many young people nowadays have lived in or around an oppressed society (not necessarily one with weapons), one that uses stereotypes and dispensable information (books, films, the soap operas we watch from 6 until 10, television series promoting promiscuity, and worst of all the social pressure of “being in fashion”) to generate a simulation of being in a “reality” that isn't really being lived.

Mucho se ha perdido, pero aún así ha quedado un remanente de jóvenes y personas interesadas por la cultura… y aunque pocos son los que saben que realmente el che es argentino y que Somoza ayudo al país en grandes cosas, el correr la voz a través de los medios y luchar por ser libres del “simulacro social” es muy necesario para que nuestra nación cambie.

A lot has been lost, but there is still a remnant of young people interested in culture… While there are few that know that Che is in fact Argentinian and that Somoza actually helped the country in many ways, we can bring about change for our nation by using media to spread the word and by fighting to be free of this “social simulation.”

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