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“Wonderfully evokes Nicaragua’s enchanting beauty and the enormity of its loss.”—Kirkus Reviews
"Descriptive and compelling, Shattered Paradise brings the reader to this magical land, its folkloric culture and its diminishing wildlife." —Maria Beltran, Readers' Favorite
My hazed eyes turned to the window as if expecting to see what I’ve dreamt. Instead I saw volcanoes, remnants of the 1972 earthquake and a land, which appeared as viewed from a map: triangular, verdant, cooled by the Pacific Ocean and cradled by the waters of the Caribbean Sea. “We’re here!” announced Mama as we exited directly to the outdoors of the airport. The heat and the humidity of Managua seemed worse than when I left the country and my silk dress became one with my skin. As we traveled away in an air-conditioned shuttle, I saw beautiful landscapes, murals painted with faces of heroes and graffiti that read “Patria Libre—Free Nation.” The streets were different from my new homeland; they lacked signs and names. But somehow, the third world country inspired tranquility, as smiling vendors pushed wooden carts and children played soccer in the streets with a deflated ball.
Later, when we arrived to our destination, I stood before the Mere Pacificum as bestowed upon it by Ferdinand Magellan to denote the peaceful sea of the Pacific Ocean. Its gentle waters wickedly hypnotized me into a tsunami of memories and as the sun settled, I saw hues of red, orange and yellow seemingly merging from the magnificent sky into the vast sea. The sea appeared calmer than usual and the sand caressed my bare feet as if loving me again, as if to remind me that my life wasn’t always a sad story. And to make matters worse, my skin failed to distinguish between the smooth sand rubbing against it and the velvety touch of the scattered leaves back home, the isolated cabin amid the cloud forests.
It was on that beautiful day, that I was forced to remember through the ripples of the water, how as a child in that heaven; I once enjoyed a world most could only dream of: endless days of riding horses through forests of warm rain and adventures on moonlit nights to the sound of distant jaguar cries. And as I closed my eyes, I could still see her, the rebellious curly haired girl running freely through the fog, rolling from the top of verdant hills that were scented by coffee blossoms and pungent orchids.
Desperate to cool off, I further immersed my body into the gentle waters of this peaceful sea. But the sand continued to impersonate the leaves of my beloved forests, delivering an electrical current throughout my bare feet, tickling them—the way the leaves used to feel when I removed my red water boots. To add to my moment of bliss, the warm breeze of the sea whispered into my ears—that all had ended. But as I recall, it was Mama who insisted that it was never my fault, but rather the curse of my elephant’s memory, the type that never forgets.
It felt strange to be back. I no longer felt at home and the natives saw me as a tourist, for I was disguised as one. I spoke with an accent, not native to Nicaragua or my naturalized home back in California. I wore the look of a Californian girl: Billabong sandals, Rip Curl shorts and a tank top covering my neon swimsuit. My mother in the other hand, attempted to give me away; she wore a white kimono with colorful embroidery and plastic sandals. For sure, they thought of us as tourists attempting to assimilate into their culture. If only they knew the truth, that I’ve known this land earlier, when the forests were denser and the towns were speckles in between the mountains—silent. If only they knew...that I once killed the spirit of a little Nicaraguan girl, but had returned to revive it once more.
Shattered Paradise: Memoirs of a Nicaraguan War Child was inspired after this visit. I couldn't keep the memories of this beautiful country all to myself.