Nov. 28-Mrs. Lizzie Nelson is an icon of our society. The Instituto
de Danza, (Dance Institute), designated her Regional Delegate of Culture
in 1993. However, she is probably the only delegate without an office.
All interviews and work are executed from her home. Her work is carried
out purely out of kindness since she does not receive any financial
assistance from either the regional or central government.
Mrs. Nelson has been
struggling to keep the Black culture alive on the Caribbean coast by
traveling to foreign countries to perform. Mrs. Nelson mentioned that
she has faced difficulty leaving the country in the past years. On one
occasion, Mrs. Nelson was invited to take her dance group to China by
the Chinese government. They almost didnít make the trip because they
(those with vested power) didnít want them to leave Nicaragua. They
were allowed to leave the country only after the ambassador of China
intervened on their behalf. ďIt is as if someone does not want us to
showcase our culture to the world,Ē she said.
Mrs. Lizzie is now in
her seventies and would prefer to play the role of coordinator and
delegate the bigger part of choreography to someone else. She voiced her
concerns for our culture and worried that unless we do something now, it
will rapidly disappear. Mrs. Lizzieís participation was not solicited
during the activities last May. Being the Delegate of Culture and not
being invited to the activities, which she has overseen for the better
part of her life, was wrong and must be avoided in the future.
What is the present state of our culture?
First of all, I am very thankful that you young men thought of coming to
your hometown to find out where we are culturally. In 1993, I was named
delegate of culture. I have worked over forty years since the 1960ís
here on the Caribbean coast and the Pacific. I am the founder,
organizer, and instructor of a dance group. I thought it was the only
way for us to identify ourselves as to who we are. There are many ethnic
groups. Therefore, we cannot identify ourselves as one solid race. We
are a multicultural ethnic group; therefore, we have to be careful and
show our people that we are not only one. Culture is not only about
dance; it is also our way of speaking, our way of living, our customs,
and the way we prepare our food. This is what our ancestors taught us.
There are lots of
influences. The people from Pacific took the interest to invite groups
with the purpose of copying us. So we are here as though we donít know
anything about ourselves. They took all that I have taught them during
seminars and presentation about the history of the dances Iíve taught
such as where it came from, why we do it and when is the appropriate
time for them. We as Creoles are failing because we donít take part in
our culture. We keep our mouth shut and hands fold. Now we have to
accept whatever the Pacific brings to us.
If you are from the
Caribbean coast and you are aware that we are failing, please try and
help us promote our culture. Right now my group is being invited out,
but we canít go because we donít have any financial help. The
Pacific has our videos, and they rehearse the dances and instead send
their people to represent us saying, ďHere is the Caribbean coast.Ē
All they are doing is laughing and making a mockery of us saying there
is the Caribbean coast May Pole. They bring lots of camera to videotape
our people in very ugly and vulgar presentation.
for Citizen and Autonomic Human Rights of the Atlantic Coast), has
all my documents and promised to print a book. Channel 2 recently came
to do an interview with me to see what I was doing. My own regional
government has not given me an office since I was named delegate of
culture. People here do not know what we do in May, October, December or
January. We as Creole people have our own musicians, composers and
singers, and everything they have taken and copied for a little bit of
money. The Garifunas and Carib people lived among us, but they have
their own way of dancing, even the people in Puerto Cabezas have their
own way of dancing. What people are doing now is copying what they see
on TV. Not because we are of afro-decent means we have to do what the
Africans do. We cannot go to Africa and say I am an African, no! Could
we? No, we have a different culture. I am begging all of you Creoles who
are out to please come and take over. The Sandinistas were the only ones
to promote our culture.
do you compare the participation of the youth today from those in years
youth will participate because everyone is a dancer. It does not matter
what music you play. But because of economical help that we donít
have, the participation has been declining. We need help to buy new
Mrs. Lizzie, when it comes to preserving our culture, do you think our
people are too relax, which may contribute to the fact that you are not
receiving any help?
What do you mean, that they donít have sufficient knowledge about it?
knowledge but being interested in it.
If they knew enough about the culture, they would be more
interested. My first writings about our customs are at CIDCA (Center for
Investigation and Documentation of the Atlantic Coast), but they choose
people who are not from Bluefields and donít know our culture. Many of
our Creole leaders know my work, but I think as you said, itís a lack
presently you are fighting this battle all by yourself?
Apparently, with the help from a few good people such as BendaŮa, Tablada,
Pancho Flores. I can always count on them for help when I need
it. They are always willing to help promote this program.
you think you would be able to generate more help and interest by going
door to door to try to reeducate our people here in Bluefields about the
importance of preserving our culture? I personally think we have to
start teaching the youth, the children who are growing up. It may be
tough to change the older folks, but we can try to get to the kids. What
do you think itís going to take?
groups have always consisted of young people between the ages of 7 and
9, mostly from Old Bank. I had Orel Bowie, Marvalee, and the Joseph boy.
I taught them. My main objective is to educate the youth. I presented a
project for the youth to the assembly in Managua, and they promised me I
would get help. The ambassador of Japan promised to sponsor the youth,
but I havenít seen any help. I donít know who is receiving it. I
know itís not me.
you have been promised help, but you still have not seen it?
Iíve heard that the Japanese and the French have given a lot of money
for the group, but I still havenít seen it. I just donít know who is
at the bottom of all this.
Mrs. Lizzie, you are very admired everywhere, especially by our group
SLC. Unfortunately, we donít spend much time at home here in
Bluefields. We come and go because we have to get back to our job, but
our intention is to come home to live. We are always trying to see what
can be done. Our goal is to try and keep our culture together. We are
very curious to know who will follow your footsteps in keeping this
battle alive. Do you have anyone to follow your steps when you canít
do it anymore?
Yes, I have a few people who are waiting to hear if the government will
give us help. When Dina Myers and the girl for Solomon were dancers,
they took initiatives and saying Mrs. Lizzie letís do this and letís
do that. We presented a lot of things, but we need help. We have to
continue practicing and if I have these people as monitors, they will be
looking for something. Sometimes I have to share my salary with them.
Recently, we had a presentation, and Ricardo Mena asked me the
same question. I told him that so long as you guys can help us out with
sponsorship, we will be able to survive.
is very involve in preserving what is ours and not let them take it away
from us. I always refer to a song written by Phillip Montalvan from Soul
Vibration ďBlack History,
Black CultureĒ the song talks about how they are robbing our culture.
I had the opportunity to talk to Phillip in Managua, and he still feels
the same way today as he did when he first wrote the song. We did our
first Bring Back The Culture Festival in April, and we are working on
our second Festival. We would like to invite you to come out and talk
about our culture during the festival.
Yes, I wish you all had talk to me before you did the festival, so I can
help point out what songs were done by our people. We had many
composers, for instance, Woody from Cotton Tree. He was short of speech,
but they were the first to make Maypole with the effort of a very good
friend from Managua, Roberto Sanchez. I took him to Old Bank to know the
people who carry Old Bank such as the Campbellís, the Josephís, and
David Vans. In Cotton Tree you had Big Willie, William Thomas and Dennis
All these people we can
bring alive and let the people know who we are. No one had to come from
the Pacific to tell us how to dance and what to dance. Look at baseball
the first baseball players were from here and look what they are doing
to us now. They are tying to kick us out. Eduardo Green and Mike Omeir
were the last. Most of our players ended up being guardias or teachers.
Look at Davis Hodgson, they want to kick him out because the
coast must not get any recognition. The new governor called me to give
some English history, but I told him first I had a complaint of what was
ours and is now stolen. Woody created the song ďKelele Pom PomĒ that
song is Woodyís original, and it got stolen. Right now there is a law
to protect all original materials because they are all being copy by
law you are talking about, is it to protect the dances you invent?
People told me I should have done that long time ago, but I wasnít so
concern. I felt good that we were invited out to promote the coast, but
that was done with the intention of copying our moves. Alejandro Cuadra
who died last year used to come here. He said that he was an expert in
dance and wanted to help me. In
July, I went to Ruben Dario (theater) and the group had the same clothes
Weíve notice that May Pole has become a big commercial thing. We know
that in the U.S. there are always groups from the Pacific performing for
as much as $25.00 admission saying they are from the coast.
They are many who left my group and are paid, contracted to dance.
Thank you for your time, any message for those who will be reading this.
Just try and get something out of what I have said here today.