Street Vendors in Nicaragua’s “Blue and White” Rebellion

Photo: Carlos Herrera / Confidencial

Hundreds of Managua street vendors discovered that the protests were an opportunity to earn some money.  Among them was Luis Manuel Ortiz, killed on June 30th during the “March of the Flowers” march, a demonstration protesting the many killings of youth and children.

By Anagilmara Vilchez (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – They returned the bands and kerchiefs that Luis Manuel Ortiz had been selling, handing them back to Nohelia Pavon, 23 years old. In the hospital, in desperation, she shouted: “Why did he stay there?  Knowing that sales were slow, we should have gone back. He would still be here with his little girl! I wanted him to talk to me, but he was already unable to answer.”

They wanted to earn some 500 cordobas (around US $16), the price of a can of powdered milk for their year-old daughter. That morning, Luis Manuel took out his cart to pick up trash and earn enough to transport himself, his partner and his mother-in-law to the March of the Flowers. He had spent 1,000 cordobas (US $31.65) on merchandise, and he was dejected when the activity planned for June 23 was cancelled.  The next Saturday, June 30, he was hoping to recoup his investment.

Since the demonstrations began in April, the young couple had gone to the protests to sell different items. They divided up during the March of the Flowers in order to cover more territory and in that way make more money. Nohelia ran into Luis Manuel at least three times in the course of the march. “That day we did badly with the sales; I had barely sold 90 cordobas worth when I saw him for the last time,” she recalls. At the Jean Paul Genie roundabout, the couple separated. A short time later the shots began.

March of the Flowers on June 30th.  Photo: Bienvenido Velasco EFE – Confidencial

 

Nohelia ran and found her mother. Together they waited for Luis Manuel for two hours, asking people if they’d seen a street vendor. “I thought that he’d already left the area, but no. I never imagined that he was going to go all the way there (where the shots were coming from).  Maybe he went on because he wanted to follow the march to sell more and get enough for my little girl’s milk,” grieves the young woman.  When they couldn’t find him, they went home. Later they recognized him in a photo where he appeared with blood on his jeans, a backpack and closed eyes. Two young people took him to the hospital on a motorcycle.  He was 23 and had been shot twice in the head.

“Some days we did badly and we were left with the merchandise, but we looked for a way to make a living. He was my support, he was my third arm, he helped me with the little girl and now he’s no more. I don’t think I’ll go back to selling at the marches, not anymore,” Nohelia assures. Before the April rebellion, Luis Manuel worked at the Oriental Market dumping garbage for businesses while she sold fruits and vegetables.  Whatever they could. “He was an affectionate, dutiful, responsible person and a very hard worker. I’ve saved all his little things,” says Nohelia, referring to the bands and kerchiefs that he hadn’t been able to sell.

Like them, at least a thousand casual laborers in Managua have found in the protests an opportunity to subsist. The sale of flags and patriotic articles at the roadblocks or demonstrations is a good out for families like that of Nohelia and Luis Manuel who’ve been left with no work. “They invest from US $30-150 in products. They peddle flags, they have whistles, they have kerchiefs, headbands, face masks. On a really good day, those who invest just over US $30 may go home with $15 in profits,” explains Irlanda Jerez, a dentist and merchant from Managua’s Oriental Market.

Here are some stories, told in pictures:

He follows the calls to the marches that are posted on Facebook. He’s 27 years old and doesn’t give his name out of fear. He explains that he began selling at the protests in May, and he assures us that he feels pride when he sees so many people with the flags that he sells, although he affirms that “we want this to stop, even if it means we can’t sell our little flags any more. There are lives being lost, and we don’t want to earn money at the price of more deaths.” Photo: Franklin Villavicencio / Niu

 

He’s been a peddler for eight years. “I sell all kinds of stuff,” he says. “I have to wear out my shoes, even when I can’t stand my aching feet anymore. You have to keep at it, more so when you have a goal in life,” he states. Photo: Franklin Villavicencio / Niu

 

“Thank God, we still have food on the table, because we’re from the market and there’s nothing in the market. We used to sell tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and with all this we really can’t,” declares Janerica, 34. Photo: Franklin Villavicencio / Niu

 

She and her family had invested just over US $150 (5,000 cordobas) in products when we interviewed them in mid-May. “The most we’ve sold is about $63 (2,000 cordobas), but we go out to the traffic lights every day and if there’s a march we come to the marches,” she stated. Photo: Franklin Villavicencio / Niu

 

The flags come from the Eastern Market. “They’re on rolls of cloth that are printed and cut,” the vendors explain. The handkerchiefs and headbands are also sold on silkscreened cloth that is made in independent workshops that maintain a low profile out of fear. The price of the flags varies from US 60 cents to just under US $5.00 (20 – 150 cordobas). Photo: Bienvenido Velasco / EFE

 

 

The Nicaraguan flag, our national symbol, has been raised in this new struggle. On the coffins of the fallen, in the hands of those who protest, on a child’s clothes, draped across the barricades – there are flag. That’s why the Nicaraguan demonstrators have been nicknamed the “blue and white’s”. Today they can put you in jail or shoot at you for carrying a flag or something with its colors. Or, for selling them. Photo: Carlos Herrera / Niu
“One of the independently organized women had just bought a band that said “Nicaragua” from the youth who was killed. “That’s what hit us most – it’s terrible, because he was just there working,” Irlanda stated sadly. “It’s a terrible grief, it’s something that I can’t even explain,” admitted Luis Manuel Loasiga, father of Luis Manuel Ortiz, the peddler that was killed during the March of the Flowers. Photo: Jorge Torres / EFE.

 

 

The Nicaraguan flag, our national symbol, has been raised in this new struggle. On the coffins of the fallen, in the hands of those who protest, on a child’s clothes, draped across the barricades – there are flag. That’s why the Nicaraguan demonstrators have been nicknamed the “blue and white’s”. Today they can put you in jail or shoot at you for carrying a flag or something with its colors. Or, for selling them. Photo: Carlos Herrera / Niu

 

 

The peddlers are usually the first to arrive and the last to go. Many bought merchandise that they haven’t been able to sell, since the marches and street blockages became less regular after the massacre on May 30. Photo: Carlos Herrera / Niu

 

“There’s been an incredible rebirth of the flag as a symbol, although it’s cost the lives of some of the people. People continue with their flag, even though they keep it out of view. We have to protect the vendors, who’ve also been threatened by the paramilitaries and the police,” assures the merchant. Photo: Franklin Villavicencio / Niu

 

 

 

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