Camoapa’s 25 Years Of Sister City Friendship With Arcata – September 14, 2010

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Camoapans and friends go to market – the Farmers’ Market, that is. Left to right in front, Juan Hernandez Sanchez, Tessa Pitre, Heberto Mejia, Plutarco Hernandez Jimenez, Rosaura Altamirano, Ramon Mendoza, Lara Weiss. Back row, Dennis Rael, Laura Power. Front, left to right, Luna Weiss-Wynne, Nora Wynne, Zea Weiss-Wynne. Photo courtesy Nora Wynne

Terrence McNally

Eye Business Editor

I BLOCK – Friday morning, Ramon Mendoza, Juan Hernandez Sanchez, Heberto Mejia were taking a coffee break on their whistle stop tour of Arcata. The Camoapan delegation had just come from Fuente Nueva Charter School, where they’d talked to the students about the Nicaraguan town’s quarter-century relationship with its Sister City, Arcata.

The students had been corresponding with Camoapa’s school, Augustina Miranda Quecaea, and the delegation relayed how much the Nicaraguan kids enjoyed having a relationship with their northern kindergarten through sixth grade sisters and brothers.

But it was a break between heading out to Redwood Roots Farm for a tour and picking up former Camoapan Mayor Rosaura Altamirano – who helped established the Arcata-Camoapa Sister City Project in 1985 – at the airport, following her flight from her present home in Miami.

While most Arcatans’ biggest political beef during those 25 years was suffering the Reagan, Bush 41 and Bush 43 presidential administrations, the typical situation for a Camoapan was more dire. Camoapa was centered at the heart of the country’s civil war.

“It was one of the most affected places in the war,” Hernandez Sanchez said. “It’s in a mountainous zone and the mountains permitted the military operations. It was unsafe and there were lots of deaths. There was a permanent presence in Camoapa of the National Guard.”

The village, even families were frequently spilt in loyalty between the established government of the Sandanistas and U.S.-backed Contra militia groups.

“They government took people from their families to fight,” Mejia said. “They just signed them up in the war.”

Today, the back-and-forth tug for the heart of the country has settled into a comparative peace and conciliation.

“We understand that when the sister city project started, the U.S. Government was funding it [the war],” Mendoza said. “We knew that there was a rejection here, in Arcata, of people rejecting Regan and Bush. I said and I maintain that there is a difference between the government and the hearts of the people. There is a big difference.”

According to Mendoza, Camoapans are committed to lasting peace and building on its growing relationship with Arcata.

“There have been huge changes in 25 years. The support that we’ve had in the Sister City Project has helped in a huge way. After the Sandanistas lost in 1990, the government that came in on the right forced lots of cities to lose their sister cities. So our Sister City is an example because it’s still alive and it grew and thrived.”

“We maintained the relationship and Arcata responded to the strengthening relationship,” Mendoza said.

Most attendees at Monday’s annual I Block fundraiser for the Sister City project were there for the food, beer and music and the political importance of the foursome’s visit was probably lost on them.

“We would like the people of Arcata to know the depth of the relationship and prepare for the future and be able to translate more information,” Hernandez Sanchez said.

“Some people think it’s just a party,” Mendoza added. “But we would like to come to the party to have that contact with the people. When it started, is was just a seed of an idea, to have this exchange. So many people [Arcatans] have gone down there. The most important is the friendship.”

“In the next 10 years we’d like to see more people understanding the project and being involved. In 10 years, instead of asking for favors, we’d like to be returning more favors,” Mendoza said. “We’d like Camoapa to be in a better financial state – not waiting for help but giving help. Solidarity multiplies when people feel it.”

The 2010 I Block Party. TMc | Eye

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