Testimonies from the Gloria Quintanilla Women’s Cooperative: Doña Irma

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My name is Irma Maria Abiles Rivera. I am 74 years old and I came to Santa Julia at the age of 29. I’ve been here over forty years of my life; I’ve grown old. I raised my eighteen children here. Ten are alive and eight dead.

I worked during the time when Somoza’s guards were here, when we earned 2.50 cordobas a day. We went to work at 6am and left at 4pm. In the day, we labored in the coffee plantation. After farming, I would go to work in the kitchen. I prepared two hundred-pound sacks of corn, went to bed at nine at night, and got up at midnight to make tortillas. We earned a pittance.

From there I went to Chinandega to cut cotton, barefoot. When I left with my first husband, he gave me the life of a dog. He beat me. God forbid that a man spoke to me, God forbid that a woman spoke to me. He kept me locked up, like being in a tank with barely a peephole to see clarity. This was all under Somoza.

Now Daniel has opened our mind and vision. We have overcome. We got involved with the ATC and the ATC has lifted us up. The cooperative started in 2008. This land was owned by a German and Somoza took the German out. Now the land is ours. We thank the Lord for the government that we are with and we ask the Lord to continue. We are all with Daniel and we ask that Daniel wins again.

I raised my kids by myself. My husband died and left me eight children and I came here to raise them. I tried to have my children study, but I didn’t have enough money so they started to work, earning money with honor from the sweat on their foreheads. They know how to read. I can almost sign my name, but my mind has worked really hard and suffered.

My children grew up working with machetes and working in the fields. They are campesinos and none of them have gone to the city, except for one that my sister took with her to Costa Rica. If my children don’t have land to sow and I do, they are the ones who sow the beans and corn. Right now I have yucca and things like that in order to survive. Thanking God.

When this land was a business, they used to throw chemicals on it, but when we each got our own little piece, I don’t like to use that stuff. I have five sacks of fertilizer that we make. It is a natural fertilizer of ashes, coffee pulp, wood, sardines, rice, bean pods, all that. They gave us a sprayer that we use to apply organic pesticide when our beans have plague. I find someone to spray my four manzanas of coffee so that I know I’m going to sell and eat something good. I tell my children that when you plant, don’t burn the natural material, it is  better to spread it over the plants. Don’t burn it. It takes away the strength of the land.

I have 5 manzanas and I plant coffee. Not too long ago ago I received 300 coffee plants, and I already planted them. The cooperative received coffee plants and I planted them too. I have mango trees, I have avocado trees, orange trees and tangerine. Everything I have been given I have sown. We have planted bananas. I also have cedar trees, and everything– just imagine how beautiful my plot is. We are advancing, thank God.

Right now a blessing came to us; they gave us chickens as part of a project. They gave me 250 chickens and eleven hundred-pound sacks of food, four water troughs and four feeders. I have them all back there. I hardly sleep because I’m making sure they don’t get caught by the foxes and snakes.

We don’t starve since we have beans and tortillas. We buy about 20 pounds of rice for the month, although sometimes I pass it to my daughter-in-law. Someone comes from another community to sell milk. When I have money, I buy, when I don’t, I don’t and we make oat drinks instead. I don’t spend money on Coke, but they give me some from time to time and I drink it. I can have a small tortilla with coffee for dinner without any problem.

Everything has been hard but here in the countryside we are better off than the people in the city. Here, as Lola says, “We are rich,” because if I don’t have anything to eat, I cook two plantains and I go to Lola and I don’t die of hunger. But in a city, where would I go to eat? We help each other here. I go to Eloisa and I tell her I haven’t eaten and they give me food. If someone doesn’t have food, I help them like they help me.

This testimony of Doña Irma was originally published in October 2020 in the Friends of the ATC publication, “The Earth Is Our Mother”. The full set of testimonies are available ici.


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