The Long Road To Jalapa

The sun pauses for a moment on the edge of the Honduran mountains that ring the tiny town. The market stands empty where earlier in the day onions were spread out over the ground and fresh rolls sold for pennies a bag. The bell in the church tower next to the community peace garden, which is dominated by a broad-leafed banana tree, gives forth a few rings, and the voices of children giving glory to Mary drift out of the church's windows. A rooster crows—they crow at all times of the day and night here—and a few dogs bark.

Someone once told me that Jalapa is "at the end of the world." It was meant as a compliment to the dusty, little Nicaraguan town which exudes character and warmth to the peaceful stranger who comes to its isolated streets.

There is one telephone in Jalapa (it works most of the time), and transportation is mostly by foot, horse, or oxcart. Time seems to hide itself here; the community is called together to the church or the park, over which towers the emblem of Lions Club International, by a sound truck that roams the streets announcing the day's events: a town meeting, a children's rally, a funeral.

When the sun finally slips behind the mountains, stars pop out by the millions in Jalapa's sky. At night one can occasionally hear the call of a child, the clopping of a horse down a street, or, if you're in the right part of town, the seemingly misplaced North American rock music filtering out of Sandra's Place. A report of gunfire now and then from the mountains reminds the town that all is not at peace in Jalapa.

Jalapa may seem like the end of the world to a foreigner's eye, but it is the center of the world for the people of Jalapa and the surrounding valley, which is the agricultural hub for all of northern Nicaragua. Ironically, by virtue of its isolation, the town has become the focus of attention from unwelcome intruders and their primary supporter, the United States government.

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