My mother is from Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua, which is the largest country in Central America by landmass and the penultimate smallest in terms of population (second to Panama). It remains the least developed country in Central America and the second poorest in the Western Hemisphere (second to Haiti).
The people of Nicaragua are beautiful and they are poor. The public education system is lacking, their political system is corrupt and the economy has been devastated by civil war and natural disaster from which it has yet to recoup. Despite all of this, the culture, language, traditions and dishes remain rich and exquisite. I recently visited for the first time since I was 16 years old. I lament that the reason was because of the passing of my grandmother and yet, the family was brought closer together in this time of grief.
I met my grandmothers friends from childhood, neighbors, community members, extended family and got to spend time with my brother and his children. I observed their process of grief and mourning and how it differs from our own. Theirs is a collective, group experience shared with friends and family for nine nights. People stopped by to give their condolences, light candles, say a prayer and partake in snacks, fresh juice and sodas. They believe the spirit of the deceased dwells here before making it’s final departure from this carnal world. This lends itself to uniting family and friends for an extended period of time after the loved one has passed, in which they reminisce about the fond memories and bonds that were forged throughout time.