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Ernesto Speaks: On the way it Is

A new years message from Ernesto Somarriba

Jinotega , Jan.1, 2011

When the old year was  gone maybe you were happy because another year was coming. At that moment you were with the ones who you love and when the 2010 ended  you problebly gave them a tight hug and kiss and celebrated with them.
If you were a person who felt sastified because you had completed all your goals for the last year, I think that you were feeling more confortable.
It is very commun that when a new year is starting, you plan  to reach those goals that you didn’t get to achieve in the previous year,  or to plan  your new goals for this year.  I think that almost everybody does the same thing all over the world.
At the same time you wonder if this year will be a good or  a bad for you. But it is true that most of the people feel and think positive and some time it doesn’t depend on you.
Here in Nicaragua the people do the same thing,we plan what to do for the well being of our  family and ourselves. For that reason the people who don’t have work, they look for it; others who have a work; they look for another one better in order to get better incomes to support their family; others who have the possibility  to study at  the university in order to become a profesional, they go there; some others who don’t have a house, they look for it; other Nicaraguans  who came back  from United States, Spain, Costa Rica and another countries  for the Christmas Holidays and New Year’s vacation, they went back to those countries because  they don’t have any choice. They have to continue supporting their families here in Nicaragua.
It is sad that you see that some families have to be separated again because that’s their destiny.
But what can I say, that is the way it is, and I think that the same situation happens in the rest of the world as well.
This year will be very important for the Nicaraguans  because in this year we will have the Presidential election and the history is the same . The Sandinistas against  the Liberales.  Daniel Ortega will nominate himself again. He wants to continue being the Nicaraguan president ,and the liberals, they don’t have  a clear candidate yet because all of them want to become a president. There is a guy whose name is Favio Gadea Mantilla. He wants to be nominated  for President for the liberales but he won’t  get enough votes from the leaders of the liberal party. There is another guy, his name is Eduardo Montealegre. He also wants to become President. This guy lost the last election against Daniel. I think that this guy intends to hold together the liberal party but he is deviding it. I think that in this moment Daniel Ortega is taking advantage  of this situation, but anyway, that’s their problem. I only can say that the person who will be the next president of Nicaragua has to do the right things for the well being of the Nicaraguan population and for the well being of this country.
Well the old year is gone, the good food, the drinks and parties are gone, and some members of your famly are gone too.So we don’t have to continue thinking about that any more. We have to start working  now in order to complete our goals from last year or to reach those goals that  we aim for this year because only like that will we feel sastified again at the end of this year,
The only advice that I can give you is to work hard and don’t wait for someone else to help you to reach those goals.   Good Luck in 2011.
HAPPY NEW YEAR from Nicaragua !

Harvest Time; Report from Matagalpa

Byron Martinez submitted this report and photographs from his farm north west of Matagalpa . He is probably the most noted organic coffee farmer in all of Nicaragua and is responsible for the introduction of organic coffee cultivation in Nicaragua. His award winning Maracaturra variety, which he and his father Arnolfo hybridized two decades ago is my favorite coffee and when it comes to flavor, is perhaps the worlds finest. Although his farm and family produce 150,000 pounds of fantastic organic coffees of traditional varieties, only 7500 pounds of Maracaturra are produced and we buy it all each year for the past 10 years. It will be available in June . Below is the original correspondence from me to him and his reply in both Spanish and English. Byron is not only a dynamic artisan biodynamic coffee farmer and former Sandanista revolutionary, but also a campacino (Peasant farmer) and scholar.    Paul Katzeff

Here Byron inspects a coffee variety that ripens in yellow.

Hola Paul ,         We are just ending the crop for this year, everything has changed, the plants started to show their red beans in november,(very early) at this time we have flowers on the plants.

This year the 50% of our crop is natural proccess, This is the way to save money and oil, without pollude the waters. Is a coffee very creamy and chocolate, very delicious, I enjoy working in this way because it remains to my GrandFather , he used to work in this way too.
I am organazing two bags of coffee this year for you, this bags will contain coffee of differents moons, varieties, natural process cherry beans, and you will share with your friends a cup of coffee after each baseball game that you win. Greetings to all your family.    Byron
“Hello Byron, My love to your family . We are well and the company is still in Business after the fire back in July.  Ben is now President ! I am retired from running operations. This is good. I am 73 . I have only a few good years left . I want to play Baseball more. I have a new team to play on called The Dirt Dogs !  I will be the starting catcher when we start our season in April. I am also studying guitar. I have played for many years but now I will be able to play in a band in another year , maybe even, in Nicagagua!   My life is good. How about yours?”
Paul…..Here are some more  coffee harvest photos taken by the farmer himself and digitally sent . Only ten years ago this communication would have taken 3 weeks and cost many unaffordable dollars.

Unlike grapes which ripen all at once, making harvest time just one picking, coffee cherries ripen over a 3 month harvest period . In Nicaragua that is from November to February.

Here is an example of how Byron controls bad insects wirh good  insects. This relative of the praying mantis patrols the coffee plant looking for aliens from inner space. Such biodynamic insect control is Byron’s response to oil based insecticides.   These cherries look like they enjoyed their season. I think the coffee will be spectacular in June when we get our shipment. PK

Harvest Time Part II : some photos

Text by Paul Katzeff : Mendocino ,California

Photos by Ernesto Somarriba: Chinandega, Nicaragua

One tree will produce five pounds of Coffee cherries.

Five pounds of cherries will produce 1 pound of beans

One pound of beans when roasted will  produce  .8/10 of a pound of roasted coffee. The coffee trees in this photo are shaded by indigenous Inga trees which have Nitrogen fixing root systems. These trees average six feet in height

You can get 400-600 trees per acre on the shaded and steep   forest slopes. But the coffee trees love the altitude, maturing slowly to produce exotic flavors.

Here is a typical farm road through the coffee forest. The dark green trees on the right going up the hill are coffee trees. Imagine picking cherries, one by one , 500 to the pound, while balancing on that slope !

All this effort for the beautiful cherries contents, two seeds that nature has built out of 1600 chemical compounds. One of the more complex pieces of work in the vegetable kingdom.  In the photo below there are enough cherries to produce beans for about two cups of coffee.

Harvest Time in Nicaragua: Focus on the “Pickers”

When you sit down in a bar, restaurant or cafe and maybe you ask for a cup of coffee and then perhaps,  wait for about five minutes and your cup of coffee appears with the waitress. You start sipping and  maybe you are speaking with someone . You finish your coffee and pay the $2.00 dollars or  maybe more, and then  you leave without knowing what was behind that cup of beautiful flavor.
Well the whole cycle of the coffee process from  the coffee tree to the cup that you have in your hands with the best quality of body, aroma,color and flavor is quite dependent on people .
Now I’m going to speak about the coffee picker.

They are a very important part of this coffee cycle  process, because a coffee picking machine invented has not yet been invented for mountainside coffee . For this reason you have to pick the coffee by hand. Most of the lands that are used for the coffee production are mountainous , not flat.
The days work starts very early (4:00AM ) every day of the harvesting season and y finishes around 5:00PM .

Some of this people have many years doing this beatiful labor, we can say that they are artisians because the way they pick the coffee is an art. They are very careful, they don’t want to damage the coffee tree or even the cherry.

I went to a farm and I spoke with some of them, I asked some questions and now I want to share with you the anwers that they gave me.

I asked, how much coffee one person can pick at day?
They said from 80 pound to 120 pound of cherry.
I asked how much money the earn at day?
they said a litte bit than $5.00 dollars per day.
I also asked what is the most difficult part of the picking?
they said that there are two. The first one is when the weather . Itis very cold in the morning. (about 8 or 9 celcius) , They said that is hard to pick the coffee because their fingers are so cold and it doen’t matter if they use gloves. And the other  is when the land where the coffee plantation is, has huges slopes which  means that they have to climb,  and if they don’t take care, they fall and roll down causing injuries, and also,  they said that some time they get snake bit.
I also asked them why do they do this kind of work?
I had many answers. One of them was because it is the only thing that they know how to do. Other anwers were, ” because our  family has been  doing this for generations”, and another anwer was because they like to do it. Tis next picture shows the terrain that a coffee picker works on. Pretty steep !
The life of the coffee pickers is very hard, hope next time you sit to drink a cup of coffee think about this and you may enjoy  your coffee more, knowing that you are supporting the people who are making sure the coffee in your cup tastes as good as it smells.

Reporting from Jinotega

Ernesto Somarriba

The Christmas Season in Nicaragua: Let’s Party!

By Ernesto Somarriba

Chinandega, Nicaragua

December 15, 2010

December 7th of each year, we have a big religious celebration  all around the country. You may say what is it about?, Well we have our national patrona, the imagine of La Inmaculada Concepcion de Maria (virgin Marry), it is like in Mexico, they have La Virgen De Guadalupe.

The imagine of Inmaculada Concepcion de Maria, the National Pratrona of Nicaragua

Pilgrims praying and adoring our national patrona in the church
Most Nicaraguan’s are Catholic and we decided to adopt Maria as our national patrona (Patron Saint). This tradition is more than two centuries old. At that time ( two centuries ago), El volcan Cerro Negro that is located in front of  Malpaisillo, (it is a municipio of el departamento de Leon, 90 kilometer from Managua going to th norht west side of Nicaragua) was having a big eruption and it was threating to destroy Malpaisillo and all Leon City.  There wasn’t anything  the people could do at that moment, except to run for  their life. But in the town of Malpalsillo there was a Catholic priest as there is in every single town or city in this country. This preast decided to climb the volcano with the imagine of Virgin Marry and others catholic pilgrims. They were climbing and singing songs about the Virgin Marry. Some time later, the eruption stopped, the land didn’t shake anymore ,and there wasn’t any smoke coming out  of the crater. The people of at that moment thought that it was a maricle from the Virgen because they had shown their faith to her.
After this maricle from The Virgin, the tradition started as giving thanks to her. Almost every Nicaraguan Catholic  home celebrates this date. How do we do it?  By singing and giving presents such as candies, cofites, nacatamales, limones dulces, well all kind of things , to those who come to our home singing with us.

The people are getting their present

It it is big parade bacause you can see a lot of people in the street singing in front of  every single house that has the imagine of La Inmaculada Conception de Maria outside.

performing songs about Marry

Also you can see some musicians going  around performing songs about Marry. When the people arrive to your house, they shout, ¿QUIEN CAUSA TANTA  ALEGRIA? and you have to answer LA CONCEPCION DE MARIA and the people start singing and after they finish singing you have to give them a present.
One day before the celebration (Dicember 6th)  people from all around Nicaragua come to visit La Vasilaca del Viejo in order to pray and to ask for personal favors from the  Virgin Marry. La Vasilica de El Viejo is the house of  the imagie of La Inmaculada Concepcion de Maria, also the Vasilica has the same name.

This is la vasilica  Inmaculada Concepsion De Maria en El Viejo  Chinandega.
The tradition continues when after the all singing and praying, the people sit around their table and eat Gallina Rellena, At what time this happen? it is almost middle night!

Gallina Rellena
Here in Nicaragua we have a lot of faith to virgin Marry because  of the favors that she has done for us. That’s what the  people say if you ask them.


Ernesto Somarriba

Graduation in a Land with few Opportunities, but Hope Survives

December 7, 2010

Chinandega, Nicaragua

By Ernesto Somarriba

These are part of the students who graduated from High School this year. Some of them are going to continue studying at the university, other will find a work and continue studying during the weekends,some others will only work, and in the worst of the cases, they will leave the country because they won’t find any oportunity here in Nicaragua.

Here in Nicaragua most of the people don’t have enough opportunity, but we still don’t give up the fight. In this picture you will see some teenager that just graduated from  high school. They have a lot of dreams, some of them will reach that dream, but most of them, they won’t.


Here is the best student of The San Luis Beltran School. He graduated from high school few days ago. He wanted to share with us some of his thoughts.
“Hello everyone, I’m a teenager that had born 17 years ago and I want to share with you some of my dreams
how will be my future in my life.My future in my life will be the whole goals that I want to reach, I know that I have to fight for them and it won’t be easy, because here we  have a lot of competition with very few opportunities, I know very well about that, but still I want to try.

In this moment my main goal is to pass the test to get into the university because I want to be some day a professional, I want to work some day and after that I want to support my mother because she deserve that, in this moment my mother doesn’t live with me, she had to leave the country because she wasn’t able to find a job here,she didn’t have money to feed myself and to pay my school, for this reason she left to Spain 5 years ago.
In this moment I live with my grandmother and my two brothers.
I want to study medicine at the UNIVERSIDAD NACIONAL AUTOMONA DE NICARAGUA, that means that I have to study very hard.In this moment a feel happy because I had done my high school, but at the same time I feel sad because I have been in this school for five years I made a lot of friends and I realy had good time with them, now I know that all of them will take different way and maybe some of them I won’t see again, but at the same time I have to understand that this is life.

I had left part of my life in this school, but what can I say I’m growing and I have to start another part of my life.
I hope that I have left my name carved in some hearts and specially in my friends.
Now I have to remember the advices of my teachers, I now that it will help me  a lot for my next goal.
I want my dreams to come true, for this reason I feel ready.

Abdul Lainez





Editors note:

I asked Ernesto to do a report on hometown food.  Here is what it looks like to a Nicaraguan behind the camera. This is Part one in a four part series on the daily way food is bought , sold and consumed in this mountain city.

Slice of Life #1:

Meat is a very important complement for the nicaraguan diet. We say that if you don’t have a piece of meat in your lunch, it is like you don’t eat. In the Nicaraguan diet it is very important also, to have at the table, rice, beans and  tortillas. These are the principal foods on our table every day. You may say that it is boreing to eat the same thing every day, but we are accustom to it and also, the meat preparation is different for every day. One day you can have rice, beans meat with patotoes, another day the meat is combined with carrots, etc. but there is one problem that we have right now. There are  alot of people that  don’t have access to eat a piece of meat. Also in these days, the beans are very expensives, because the rainy season was very  strong and it damaged more thatn the 60% of the beans production., For thius reason to eat beans now a day it is becoming a luxury.


Slice of life #2

Here you can see some of the most important products  in the Nicaraguan diet as beans and rice.This is the way as the vendor shows their products to the buyer, if the buyers like, they buy it.

Slice of Life #3      STREET VENDORS

****************** End Part I*******************

Baseball in Nicaragua; Our National Pastime

By Ernesto Somarriba

Chinandega, Nicaragua

November 17, 2010

Editors Note: I asked Ernesto a few questions and the opening paragraph contains his answers;

The  baseball stadium in the following story is outside of Chinandega city, you have to take the road to the northwest going to El viejo.
Boer de Managua, Leones de Leon, Oriental de Granada and Tigres del Chinandega are the four Major League Teams in Nicaragua.
The best Nicaragua player was Dennis Martinez, He pitched   a perfect game against the  L.A. Dodgers in JULY 28 of 1991.
Now we have Vicente Padilla, (in this moment he is a free agent), Everth Cabrera(San Diego Padres), Wilton Lopez(Houston Astros) and some other that play in the minor league(32 players in different category) of different organization of the major league baseball.
A national player can earn at least $3000 dollars per month, a foreign player can earn $10,000 dollars, I don’t know why is this difeerence of salary?.
the cost of the ticket vary from C20 cordobas to C100 cordobas, it depent of the location of the seat.( $1-$5 dollars)


There is something beatiful that all Nicaraguans love, what is it?  Baseball!

Baseball here in Nicaragua is a religion, not a passion. We have been playing baseball for more that 100 years, How it comes?  Well  when the American’s first came here they used to play baseball and some time they din’t have enough players, so they showed to the Nicaraguan’s how to play it, and then we started playing against them. A  night game: The fans begin to arrive and the vendors hope for good sales

When the twentieth century was begining some members of the Army from the United States came here, they were helping to the Nicaraguan’s to build the  rail tracks for the trains, they used to teach  us the best tecniques to play, after that it was becoming a Nicaraguan favorite entertaiment, but now after more than 100 years it  has become a religión.

When the Baseball world series started we were very excited, we used to watch every game between the San Fransico Giants and the Texas Ranger, we thoght that it was to bad that the Giants beat Rangers in 5 games we wanted to watch more, but any way we joined.

One week ago our main event started, well it isn’t the major league, but it is our baseball, here in Nicaragua we have a profesional league, we have four teams, they are Leones de Leon, Oriental the Granada, Boer the Managua and tigres del Chinandegua, the season take 4 months including the final, and all the Nicaraguan like to go to the baseball game.

Eating is a part of the game...isn't it ?

In this league come some profesional players from the United States,Canada, Venezuela,Dominicana, Cuba, Panama and of course the best players  of Nicaragua including those who are signed from organizations of the Major league.

How can you watch at the pictures, we don’t have the Yankee statium or even the Dodgers stadium, but I think that we have the same passion or maybe more, also in these pictures you can see the stadium  totaly full, you may say , how it come? Well simple, we love baseball, also when you are in the stadium you forget all your problems and if you go alone, it doesn’t matter, because you can speak about baseball with the person who is sitting beside you, no matter who is that person and you may feel that you know that person from all the time

Also you can cosume some Nicaraguan food as quesillo, vigoron, chancho con yuca, tajadas, hot-dog, carne asada and some more.

What can I say, we always have fun.

Here in Central America the football is the most famous sport, but here in Nicaragua, baseball is not a passion,it is a religión.

If you come to Nicaragua don’t forget to visit the baseball stadium anywhere you go around the country, we don’t have the expensiviest and bigest stadium as in USA, but I asure you, that you will feel the same passion or maybe more.

Here in Nicaragua, remember that baseball is not a pasión, it is a religión.

The Nicaraguan food scene : our foods and how we eat.

Ernesto Somarriba,

November 7, 2010


This is the central market here in Chinandega every morning a lot of people come to sale their product and some other to buy, the salers  start arriving to the market very early morning in order to be prepared until the customs come, it is good idea if you want to buy something from the market, to wake up very early morning because you are able to select the better products for you family also if you do this you can get  the product in a cheaper prices. it is very interesting to see the saler arriving from their small farms with products as corn,vegetables,oranges, beans, rice, etc, they are always hope to have a very good days, they expect to sale the whole products that they offer and after that to go back home with some money and continuing supprting their famlily, most of them come from a very large famlily, well of couse, this is the tradition here in Nicaragua to have a huge family.

This market was built 58 years ago, at the beginnig it was yet only a large field. the people use to come to sale and buy, but it was really hard for the people, because the market didn’t give good conditions to the saler and buyer, because they did’t have roof, no water, and also every thing was in totally desorder, the meat section was beside the clothing section or the sea food section was mixed with the shoes section, etc. so that mean that it was an unhealthy place to buy, but in 1977 it changed, the municipal mayor decided to built the market with roof and walls and intruduced the water and the light services.
After the market was built they ordered every section and then market was becoming a good place to buy with health conditions. If you come her to buy, now is better because the qualities have impruved.

My Wonderful Mother

My Mother
Chinandega, Nicaragua
November 4, 2010
Ernesto Somarriba

Editors Note: I have been editing Ernesto’s English in his previous blogs to make it easier to read. Ernesto iis a self taught English speaker and writer. Much of his English is written using Spanish grammatical rules. I have decided to let his writing retain its flavor . He is improving with each entry. Let’s watch together as he improves. If you want to communicate with him directly, his e mail address is

My Mother
This is my beatiful mother, her name is Juana Antonia Ordonez, She is 52 years old, she gave me birth when she was 17, she was still a teenager when that happened.

Juana Antonia Ordonez,

My mother is a special person, she is a wonderful woman.
My mother is a person who really believe in God, she goes to church every Sunday and pray for the world and for her family every day, she has a lot of faith in God, some time I think that she is a fanatic, but she isn’t, she is yet like that, and that’s it, she was the one who had shown me that there is a God living in everywhere and she says that he is always watching my acts, for that reason she told me that I have to be a good man and to follow Gad’s commanments, because at the end of this life, there will be another life better waiting for me if I do the wright things.
I remenber that when I was a kid, my mother was the first who taught me to read, every afternoon, she put me in her legs and with a lot of patient she introduced me the alphabet, letter by letter, then little by little I was learning, my mother never hit me or even shouted me if I din’t read correctly. She always told me well done Ernesto, that’s the way it is, she did that in order to make me feel confidence and then she said next time you will do it better, you yet only have to keep practicing hard.
My mother always told me that I have to study, she told me that she never couldn’t go to school because she had to work, her mother my grand mother was a sigle mother with six kids, my mother is one of the oldest, for that reason she had to work, in order to support her mother and brothers, she started working when she was 8 years old, she went to the streets to sell clothes, she said that she didn’t do a lot of money, but a least they had bread on the table every day, so she never had time for study, she was alway very busy selling clothes, she said that she didn’t have a normal life as the others kids, instead to play she had to work.
My mother told us how much she suffered and she said that she never wanted the same life for us, she said that she learned to read by herself, for that reason she always was worried for our education, therfore she taught us to read.
My mother gave bith 4 kids accounting me, she always has shown us a lot of love to all of us without preference, well she still is doing that.
When I go to visit her, she always give me advice and a lot of food, some time she doesn’t have food, but she figure out what to give me, she said that she still look at me as a baby, I don’t like when she said that, but anyway I have to understand that she is my mother, but one thing that I like from her is that she cooks very delicious, my sister wants to emitate her, but she can’t, no body know her secret yet.
When I look to my mother, I see in her eyes about how much she loves my dad, they have been married for 36 years, but they are in love as the fisrt day.
My mother, when she wakes up every morning, the first thing that she does is to pray, then she show a big smle and she keeps that smile all day long, so when you look at her, she make you to feel confortable.
My mom helped to my dad to teach us good principles in order to become good persons.
I always thank to life bacause the mother that I have, she is very special. I feel lucky to have that woman as a mother. she is a very good person,she always is avalable to help others persons, if some one as a favor to her, she never says no, she likes to be helping others persons, I don’t know where she get that energy to do that?.
I yet only have to say that my mother is a wonderful person and I feel proud of her.

Ernesto Somarriba

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