Over 40 years ago, as a tensions were mounting and bullets flying in Nicaragua, Justa Duartes Canales was busy running her family’s farm and raising eight children. She has scrimped and saved to make sure she could send all of them through high school; an opportunity she herself was never afforded. She read her bible at night and prayed over each of them, confident in God’s plan for her babies. One evening, her prayers were interrupted as the front door flew open. When she looked up from her rocking chair, her eyes met a slew of muddy soldiers with draw guns.
My eyes were blurred with tears before Jaquie even started speaking, and I quickly pulled my sunglasses over my face while she gazed at the grandeur of the sun setting over the Pacific. This little girl had to be worn out, I thought. We had spent the entire day playing in the ocean. Since the moment we had arrived on the beach, she had been in awe of everything surrounding her. Though she had never seen the ocean before, she walked fearlessly towards the crashing waves, as if the sea was an adoring grandmother ready to embrace her or a worthy suitor begging to romance her. She was just like me, ever drawn to the water, almost desperate to be wrapped up in it.
Ricardo was about eight years old when I first met him. With a bandana tied around his head and a few fingernails painted black (polish he had stolen from the neighbor girl), he wanted so badly to appear tougher than the rest. He would tag along with the bigger boys, hoping to be noticed. The more they ignored him, the tougher his exterior became as he tried so desperately to be part of their crowd.