“No es mi casa,” insisted Pilar, a young mother of five in a UN refugee camp near Jacaleapa, Honduras. “This is not my home.”
All during the 1980s I was in and out of Latin America as a freelance journalist covering the revolutions and wars for pubs such as Soldier of Fortune, Time/Life and Tulsa Tribune.
Communist Sandinistas had launched a dawn attack on Pilar’s village along the lower Coco River in Nicaragua to round up villagers who defied “collective resettlement.” Troops killed many villagers and captured hundreds more. Families were torn apart. Pilar and her children fled into the jungle and eventually escaped to Honduras.
“My husband was a Contra who resisted communists,” Pilar explained. “Sandinistas murdered him.”
Pilar slumped wearily in the doorless opening of her rough wooden hut and gazed in the direction of Nicaragua. Her hut was one of many like it in a clearing enclosed in barbed wire. The settlement of rotting lumber, tree limbs, rusted tin, and filth resembled more a collection of pig sties than a village. Ragged brown children seemed too tired and hungry to smile or play.
“Wherever communists come,” Pilar said, “no one can feel safe ever again. We are the desplazados, the displaced who can never return home.”
“There are always more mouths than hands,” said another refugee. “There are so many children, and the children are always hungry.”
Tears filled Pilar’s eyes. She looked around. “No es mi casa.” Her head lowered. Tears dripped to the dry earth. “But it has been my home for three years. I think it will be my home forever and I and my ninos will die here.”
If the lights that guide us ever go out, they will fade little by little, as if on their own accord. From A Thousand Years of Darkness by Charles W. Sasser. Available in paperback or e-book from Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com.