Back in Nicaragua: La Trinidad, Estelí

vicdarwinme.jpgThis is me and Darwin Escoto, my compadre, neighbor, and best friend during the two years I lived in La Trinidad, Estelí. We’ve kept in touch; I’ve been down a bunch of times and his band, Los Mokuanes, does occasional tours in the U.S. When I can, I meet him at the gig, where we hang out and catch up, before and after the show with the other guys in the band and members of the local Nica expat community. Anyway, this is Eudelia’s comedor, the place where I first met Darwin. It was nine years — to the day — before this photo was taken. It was my first day in La Trini, and my counterpart was away at the beach, “drinking guaro,” his wife said. She didn’t invite me in, so I humped my pack — and anxiety (I would be spending the next two years in this dusthole!?) down to the corner bar.

The rest is history. Here’s Eudelia:

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Right where I last left her two-and-a-half years ago, during my last visit when Darwin and I took a remarkably similar nostalgic vuelta through town as the one we’re doing today. It’s kind of a tradition. After coffee and rosquillas on his porch with Karla, we strike out, walking to Eudelia’s. We call for her, give hugs, then retell the story of our meeting, standing in the gloom of place. I’d come in and ordered chicken. Eudelia had then retreated to the kitchen, muttering to Darwin (who happened to be visiting) about some “gringo son of a bitch, I can’t understand shit of what he’s saying.” After which Darwin emerged to translate my faltering Spanish and buy me a Victoria.

trini-casa.jpgOn this day, neither of us feels like drinking beer, so our visit is short. We’re back out on the street, in the hot afternoon, and we glance across the street at my old house. It’s a corn mill now, with a second story, Darwin says. Then he makes a sexual crack on the word “molino,” or grinder, regarding my house and the current occupant. We head up the block to visit Don Pío, the old mandolin player and proudest of all Triniteños. When I lived here, people said Don Pío was 94 years old. Now no one has any idea, himself included. The man is old and used to tell me toothless old stories between songs and lessons. I’d brought a mandolin to Nicaragua, and Pío taught me how to pluck “La Moralimpia” on it. We find him sitting in his corner, cement walled living room.
trini-pio.jpgI could go on, as Darwin and I do, heading up to the park now, to Ali’s corner shop, to Alicia’s school, to my old office in the Ministry of Education. Lazily wandering, greeting, talking. If the walk goes all afternoon, we sometimes end up at one of the two gasolineras on the highway: Texáco or Petronic. They both serve cold beers, rum buckets, cacao drinks, and there are always fritanga hawkers and various Triniteño characters (there are many). Tonight, we buy sweetened cacao con leche to accompany Karla’s cooking.

trini-chino.jpgIn the morning, Donald (a.k.a. “El Chino”) and his son pull up on bicycles. He’d heard I was around and raced over to catch me before I left. Donald used to come to my house evenings, to play guitar and sing. He wanted to learn “la musica country” and “los blues,” which I taught him in exchange for a goldmine of Nicaraguan, Cuban, Mexican, and Guatemalan songs. He especially liked Eric Clapton; I especially liked Sylvio Rodriguez. El Chino is an Adventista and has never touched alcohol. He sold Adventist literature, not very profitable. He turned down a singing job with Los Mokuanes because of his religion (they play at some pretty rowdy parties). After a year of agonizing about it, Donald finally hired a coyote to take him to the United States. His wife, Alba Luz, and I kept each other up to date whenever El Chino called one of us, from Mexico, then Texas, then finally, Milwaukee, where he bagged two jobs: packing onions in a warehouse and parking cars at a fancy Italian restaurant. His child was born during this time. He finally made it back, after two years, with enough money to buy a truck, some land, and build a small house. The money’s gone now, he tells me, drinking tamarindo juice on Darwin’s porch. “Josué I’m thinking about taking another trip.”

After more coffee, the Mokuanes tour bus pulls up, and just like old times, I grab my pack and climb in. I roll with them to Sebaco, where I jump off and catch another ride northeast. To Matagalpa, in the back of a pickup truck while the sun sets over the Sebaco Valley.

For Further Listening:

Video of Darwin kicking ass on the congas

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