Travel in Nicaragua is hectic and often unpredictable. So unpredictable, in fact, that you may find yourself sitting at the bus terminal, watching the colorfully painted ex-school buses come and go, listening to blasting reggaeton for two hours, only to be told that ¨Nobody knows if your bus is going.¨ Or, at least, that´s what happened to me upon arrival two days ago. Nonetheless, there is something humbling about not having my plans go as planned; I am reminded, after all, that Nicaragua doesn´t exist to conform to my needs. And, despite the slight detour I had to take, I am incredibly content to be here.
After spending my first night in the city of Matagalpa, visiting with friends from my time studying abroad and interning at a feminist NGO last year, I travelled on to Matiguás, the rural city that I will be in for the next two weeks. It is here that I worked with a group of women to establish a feminist women´s association (La Asociación de Mujeres Para la Reivindicación de Nuestros Derechos–quite the mouthful) last summer and here that, with the support of Macalester, I will continue collaborating with them.
The original plan for my project was to open a small convenience store, known as a pulpería, in order to generate funds for the women´s group to hold workshops about issues like gender violence. When I arrived, however, the woman I´m staying with (and with whom I worked last summer to start the group) told me that the women´s association had a proposal for me. Rather than opening a convenience store, where only one person can work, the new idea is to start a used clothing collective. By buying used clothing in bulk and selling it individually, the women will all be able to work toward a common end: raising money for the group, with the ultimate goal of generating sufficient funds to construct a Casa de la Mujer, a safe space for women who seek to leave a situation of violence, or are simply looking for the support of the women´s group.
Like my travel plans changed, so have the details of my project. However, just as my detour to Matagalpa yielded the unexpected opportunity to catch up with old friends, I am confident that this shift away from the idea of the pulpería towards the more collaborative and sustainable used clothing collective will ultimately be a fruitful one. Now, off to meet with the Asociación de Mujeres and make a concrete plan!