"The Face of Nicaragua" Photography Exhibit by Ron Matason
Ron Matason -State College, PA
Photography has been a major part of my life since childhood. After high school I worked in a photo studio at an advertising agency and then learned motion picture photography courtesy of the US Army in 1967. After graduating from Penn State in 1975, I started PhotoTec, a commercial photography business. In 1982 I joined the College of Agriculture at Penn State and worked with photography, video, and visual communications until retirement in 2011.
This exhibit “The Face of Nicaragua” was photographed over a fourteen-day period in May, 1988. I visited in the cities of Managua, Boaco, San Raphael del Sur and the Bluefields. The Sandanista Revolution was all but over and the counterinsurgency by the US backed “Contra rebels” was in its final days. Incursions of Contra forces based in Honduras were still happening but, for the most part, peace talks were succeeding and the people were working to get normalcy back into their lives.
During my travel, I was fortunate to have fallen in with many people of good will. I was able to meet with educators, disabled veterans, families, medical professionals, “Sandalista” ex-patriots from the USA, and even a poet. I met the poor in the barrios surrounding my Hospedaje and met the traveling US politicians on junket and staying in the Managua Intercontinental Hotel. I met children who were forced to serve in the Contra army and were then facing conscription into the Sandanista Army. I experienced wonderful friendship and hospitality in the Bluefields, that fragile coastal town that was to be all but destroyed by a hurricane just a few months later.
Overall, I was humbled by the friendship of the people. Everyone I met, wanted peace. Some were already benefiting from increasingly better health care and improving educational opportunities. But there were still very young children missing school to sell homemade candy on the streets. Most of the non-political class people just barely eked out survival. Many received food assistance in the form of a family ration of a kilo of rice and a half liter of cooking oil each month. And yet they were able to smile and offer a portion of what little they had if someone needed it. The young men I met wanted nothing more than the opportunity to work and earn a living and to avoid military service.
These photographs were made with black and white and color negative film and color transparency film and were copied to digital files for editing and printing. When I look at these photographs today I have to wonder… What are they doing now, twenty-eight years later?
What has become of them?
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