From salted tortillas to Nacatamales


Last Saturday my Norwegian friend and I visited our friend, the woman who lives at the marked. She had invited us for tamales at 6 pm. We greeted her with kisses on the checks, and she asked us to take a seat.


Since she has bad knees and her usual housekeeper was sick, a man was helping her with errands. She asked him to go and buy the nacatamales, coffee, bottled water as well as soda.


He got back with three instant coffee backs and three big nacatamales. The nacatamales consisted of a mass of corn wrapped in leaves. The mass was stuffed with a few pieces of pork, bell pepper, a few raisins, a trace of rice and a some chunks of pure fat. To me it seems as a leftover dish, but if you ask a Nica, they are only for special occasions or weekends.


The nacatamales were served with coffee. The three of us ate together, though she barely touched the food. At some point she started telling us about how grateful she was for her current life, though (as she emphasized) she was poor. She told us her life had been “dura” (hard). With tears in her eyes and a sentimental voice, she told us about her childhood. As a child she had often eaten nothing but salted tortillas, and it had been a luxury when her grandmother had cooked soup with yucca and other vegetables.


Today she has five children. Three of the children lives in Miami, and she clearly misses them. Two of the children in Miami have their own “fritanga” (small restaurant). The woman told us that it is expensive to eat at fritangas in the United States – in fact everything is expensive over there. She compared the price of tortillas, nacatamale etc. The children send her remittances. One of the girls, who live in the States, owns a big house in León, and is corruntly having another constructed. Our friend, however, does not want to live there. She wants to stay at the marked where she has her friends. The fact that she owns the house at the marked seems to be another major reason for her to stay – she wants to live in her own property. She told us she had visited the children in Miami many years ago, but now she was too weak. Furthermore she had travelled to Costa Rica and Panama. In Panama she had been in an accident – the bus she travelled on got into an accident and four people died.


Another of her sons lives in Nicaragua, but he has had a drug problem. However, as I have written before, she has grandchildren and a great grandchild here in León.


She mentioned her deceased husband several time, but it turned out they had been divorced for years before he died. They had lived together for 21 years, when he asked for a divorce. The divorce was clearly a big failure from her point of view. She felt as if she had betrayed God, and this surely cost her a lot of pain. She is an evangelist.

She also told us that she had fled to Honduras with her baby during the revolution, because León was a very dangerous place to be. She also remembered the big earthquake in 1972 – Managua was much prettier before the earthquake, now there are just big roads and fancy buildings.


When she was done with her story, we told her thanks. It was so interesting, but I wish I could understand more. Before we left she gave each of us a mango, and promised to teach us how to make tortillas the following day. I asked if we could bring some ingredients, pay for the food, or if she wished for something. She told us we should not bring anything, because she knew how it was to be away from one’s family, and now she was our family.


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