In Times of War
“Tienes que aprender a ser un hombre y proteger a tu familia.” These were my father’s last words before he left. His advice to become a man and protect my family stuck in my head like a leech every day— especially in times like these.
All the townspeople rejoiced in listening to the rooster cry every morning, as if they were spared another day. This is how my people in Managua, Nicaragua, lived during the war. I woke up to the leaves dancing to the harmony of the wind whistling past them and the birds singing along to nature’s tune. My mother was in the kitchen cooking whatever we scavenged from the market.
“¡Raul!” she screamed as she turned to wash the plates. “¡Necesito que vayas a ver dónde están tus hermanos!”
“¡Ya voy!” I replied readying up to look for my siblings. I put away my hammock, walked to the kitchen and gave my mother a good morning hug and kiss on the forehead. She always had us as her priorities. Even when my father returned from his “business trips,” she cared for us more than her own husband. Growing up, mother told us that my father was a journalist for the Sandinistas, who were the heroes of the Revolutionary War against the corrupt dictator Anastasio Somoza. When we asked about father, she said he was busy with work, and we shouldn’t worry about him. Once I turned fifteen, my parents decided I was old enough to know the truth about my father. He was an undercover intel for the Sandinista army.
My two younger siblings, Marlon and Fabiola, played soccer with the other kids from the barrio in the streets. Every morning the kids gathered up and decided what was the game of the day. I walked towards them as the children played when Fabiola, my younger sister, approached me.
“Did mom come to check on us again?” she asked.
“Yeah she did. I need you guys to go home before she throws a big fit and rips all our ears off,” I replied jokingly.
“You don’t have to worry about us. We’ll go home now.” She gave an innocent smile and returned to play. Since it was early in the morning, there wasn’t really much to do at the time. I headed to a nearby hill not too far from the town to gaze upon the gorgeous landscape.
As I grew up, I came up here constantly just to see if my father would return home. Mother suffered from depression and anxiety every time the Sandinista army called for him. I saw my poor mother every day praying to Papa Dios to keep him under his protection during these times of war. I saw tears travel down her cheek every time my siblings asked her about father’s return.
“Luego” was always her response. Now, I am the town’s guardian who watches over its people, knowing that no matter what’s going on in the world, their lives go on. This moment of bliss ended when the ground trembled.
Was that an earthquake? I noticed a flock of birds flying southbound towards the town as a cloud of dust trailed behind them. Those very clouds of dust were growing and creeping towards the town like a plague. I didn’t take long to realize that what I was witnessing wasn’t a nightmare but a horrific reality. It was the number one thing my father feared. War was coming. There was no other option than to act. Instinctively, I ran to warn my people about the incoming Somoza army. By the time I arrived, it was too late.
“¡Viene la fuerza Somoza!” the townsfolk screamed as they ran trying to find a place to hide. Joining in the fray, I searched for a safe place where I could see the commotion. Once the army passed, I cautiously found my way home. The thought of my family ran across my mind as the words of my father echoed in my head.
I slipped past the infantry and arrived at the road that led to my barrio, but something wasn’t right. The road was barricaded with the Somoza flag waving up high. As three soldiers marched down the road, I snuck past them searching for higher grounds to get a clear view. Some houses still stood despite the attacks while others were destroyed without remorse. As I continued to scan through the carnage, there was a man running towards my house. He looked familiar from afar, but I couldn’t get a clear vision of his face. A massive army with military trucks and men pouring with rifles in their hands surrounded my house. A man who looked like a general came out of the crowd of soldiers with a megaphone in his hand.
“Atención familia Garcia. Tenemos la casa rodeada. Sabemos que Roberto García, el vocero de los Sandinistas, está allí. Salgan de la casa ahora o van a enfrentar la fuerza Somoza.”
Who was that man? Why are they after us? I felt hopeless and defenseless. There was nothing I could do to save my family
“You have to learn how to be a man,” my father's voice resonated in my mind again. I couldn’t let my father down. I needed to man up and protect the people I loved. My father built a pathway around the house where we could escape if war ever took place. I took the pathway to enter my house without being noticed. I ran straight to the living room in search of my family.
“¡Mama! ¡Marlonsito! ¡Faby!” There was no response, and my stomach pressed and twisted. I searched every empty room, finally reaching the kitchen. My father, Roberto Garcia, held a gun in his hands as my lifeless family surrounded him in blood.
“¿Qué fué lo que te dije hijo?” His voice continuously proved to be terrorizing. “Te dije que aprendas a ser un hombre y no lo hiciste.” He repeated the same words that haunted me since the day he left as he pulled the trigger and took his own life.