Testimonies from the Gloria Quintanilla Women’s Cooperative: Doña Nora
My name is Nora Isabel Velázquez, I was born and raised here in the community. I am a 58-year-old mother of seven. My mother was from San Rafael del Sur and my father was from Leon, but I am now from this community.
I became a single mother because of machismo. I remember that when I got paid, my husband demanded that I give it to him. He would drink and hit me. Of seven children I have only four because the other three I lost as a result of the beatings.
Thank God that’s in the past and with the cooperative we are now independent. Thanks to God, my four children have done well through our efforts. I tell my sons who are married to treat their partners well, because I have been abused and I don’t want my daughters-in-law to experience it. I hope that my nine grandchildren will find a way to advance, that they will study. We encourage children to excel and continue the struggle.
As a single mother, we have fought for our cooperative to advance. We have been organized by the ATC. We are very motivated and this sentiment helps us to motivate young women. The organization is what has made us succeed.
Now the land is ours
It is of great importance for us to have the land and not to have it for the sake of having it. When we were given the land, it’s a saying, “We were given”… But no, we struggled for six months without a salary to achieve what we have today.
Now I own four manzanas of land where I plant. I have beans, corn, yucca, pipian, ayote. Now the land is ours, I don’t have to work for anyone.
When we single mothers finished building our houses we were very thin. We started at six in the morning and at nine I would breastfeed my son. At noon we would say, “We are going to have lunch”; and those who had anything went to get a sip of coffee, but those who didn’t came back with empty stomachs.
A larger vision
Sometimes we tell Lola that she is the one who woke us up because she has been a great leader of the ATC. She was who started motivating us to form a cooperative. It was beautiful because we knew that we were organized.
We started the cooperative with pigs, then chickens, and now it is a multi-sector cooperative. We sell what we grow and bring money into the community. Now we have a coffee machine, there are two de-pulpers. If I get more than ten hundred-pound sacks of coffee, I pulp them and use the pulp as fertilizer.
The cooperative meets every last Sunday of the month. My job as fiscal officer is to keep an eye on things. The Sunday we meet, they take out their notebooks and we review how we did that month, what went out and what came in. To be a fiscal is to be aware of everything we have in production. A market is coming up, so on the last Sunday of the month we will decide what we are going to sell and at what price so that the day we go to the market we know what we are going to take.
Today we have woken up. It has been very important to be in the cooperative and to have a larger vision. I feel that my life is different now. If we are not organized, we do nothing.
The Somoza dictatorship & the Sandinista Revolution
The cooperative has been in existence for eleven years, but we have been organized since 1985. In Somoza’s time, I remember that if a boss or a farm manager liked you and you didn’t let yourself be raped, they could run you out of work. It happened to me. A manager had his eye on me, he would say things to me and I wouldn’t listen, until the time came when he wanted to rape me. That’s when I was fired.
My father worked all the time for Somoza and wasn’t given anything to protect himself from all the chemicals they were spraying which affected his throat and his lungs. They operated on him but it was just too much.
When the Sandinista government arrived in the 80s, all that changed; they recognized our work. Before, if the man earned five cordobas, we earned two-fifty. Now, men and women have equal rights. Here, most of the farms were Somoza’s, but now they were left to all the workers. Unions were not valid in Somoza’s time, you couldn’t organize. Once the ATC was in place, we began to work.
This government looks after the dispossessed: not just those who were in the war, but everyone. Today we have freedom.
We vote because this is the government that looks out for the poor. When I voted for the first time, it was for the Sandinistas and nobody is going to take that away from me. If it’s true that Daniel stole the elections, he stole them for the poor.
Sometimes there are people who don’t like living in the countryside, but the countryside is where life is. In the countryside we don’t buy wood; we produce bananas, beans etc. We produce from our own land. Now I have corn, beans, pipian, ayote, quequisque, cucumber, pepper, tomato, lemons, dragon fruit, sour orange, sweet orange, banana, and nancite.
Here projects come when we least expect it. There was recently one that brought us basic grains, vegetables and tools to work the land. That is a great blessing because even a shovel has a cost.
Eloísa, who is the community coordinator, told us that we were going to have a meeting. In the meeting they told us, “We were sent by president Daniel Ortega and compañera Rosario Murillo, each of you can request materials.” As a producer of basic grains, I put in everything I needed: a rake, pumps, plastic, a shovel. Other women decided to raise laying hens.
I prefer to work the land, because if I only look after animals I’ll be crippled, but if I sow the earth I’ll drink my coffee and walk around.
After 15 days, they called us to another meeting and told us that we had been approved and gave us all that we had applied for along with basic grains and seeds for vegetables. For the compañeras who are raising chickens, their broiler chicks came.
When I was younger I used to make dresses for my daughter and she learned to sew to earn a bit of money. She applied for a sewing machine and it was approved. There are also materials for women who make tortillas in the community.
All of us who benefited from basic grains have planted them.
This testimony of Doña Nora 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 here.