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**PRINT: FRIENDS FROM CINCINNATI: Installment 24 features this part coming-of-age short by Chicago's Patrick Somerville, author of the Trouble collection of shorts out in 2006. | PAST BROADSHEETS |

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Germania Solórzano

I have witnessed a faith healing.

But before that, I want to describe a bit of the 'old Managua.' El Viejo Managua refers to that part of Managua that was most effected by the earthquake in 1972. (The Rolling Stones sent $$ to Nicaragua since Mick Jagger's first wife Bianca is Nicaraguan, and Roberto Clemente died in a plane crash while bringing supplies.) The area has always been pretty much a ruin, a sort of ghost town.

People who lived there in that time always talk about the Viejo Managua and how beautiful it was. But you wouldn't know it by how it is now. The area was never fixed. The USA sent millions in aid that were never used appropriately. Somosa lined his pockets with US dollars. And so the ruins stayed. They never even tore down the buildings. My dad's Aunt Lydia still lived in the area. Her house was one of the few that weren't destroyed. There was her large but very simple wooden house and one concrete mansion across the street. That was it. Everything else fell. So at the time the National Guard (which has very negative connotations here, because they were trained by CIA operatives, etc. to be killers and torturers of the people -- like Somosa's personal goon squad -- in fact when my Aunt Marcia came to Chicago, she had to go to New York first and go through La Guardia airport -- that's what they called the National Guard, La Guardia, and she almost got sick and came to us asking why they would name an airport after La Guardia...of course we had to explain) came to my aunt's house to shut the water -- they were taking people out of the unsafe area and, typical Vega that she was, with a temper -- ornery old woman - she took out her shotgun and refused to leave. My other aunt Lydia still has the cut-out from the newspaper article with her picture with the shotgun.

Anyway, now, finally in 2001, they are building. It is very strange. Because in that time, what has happened to the area is that it is mostly large, vacant spaces. Some parks and some open lots. But nothing to attract anyone to the area. In fact it has become a kind of ghetto. Lots of little shack houses have appeared. Makeshift streets. I remember in the past seeing people living in the ruins, stretched sheets of plastic over the concrete frames of the buildings.

But now all the governmental buildings are there. And apparently not all the structures fell. Today we went to the post office, which is in the old Palacio de Comunicaciones (Palace of Communications). The building is huge. The ceilings are very high, almost cathedral-like, and the walls are of thick concrete. You can tell it was built in another time, before wall-board. It is quite inefficient in structure, yet grandiose and at the same time loosely put together. Like nothing quite matches and it is divided up into cubicles with pieces of wood painted in pastel colors, and it is extremely hot in there. The only thing cooling the place off are the ceiling fans high above. So we get the package and we go out to the car and out in the parking lot are a bunch of boys, huffing.

They are walking about, talking in sounds, a language that is neither Spanish or English but is the language of dead brain cells and youth. They couldn't have been older than fourteen and that was it. They were holding something up to their mouths and noses but you couldn't see because it was covered in rag. And there was a gang of them, giggling stupidly and sucking in whatever fumes they were inhaling.

Meanwhile some stupid entrepreneur decided to build middle-class housing in the area to try to attract more people. There the buildings stand all pastel pink, and empty.


OK. Now to the faith healing.

So my cousin Tete (Lissette) has a tumor in her esophagus. Her whole family has been praying feverishly for a miracle. They have been talking about going with her to Cuba or to Miami for treatment. So I guess Tete and family spent the whole day praying. We were not involved in that. But my ma wanted them to go to mass at their church because she had asked the priest to put Tete in the list of people to pray for. OK. So I go. We are all there. The mass was okay. I felt that my mother and god were in some collusion because today the readings were about family, you know, husband be good to your wife, wife obey your husband, parents be good to your kids and kids obey your parents..... But anyway it was okay. I spent most of the time looking at the statues. The church is the church of Santo Domingo and there is the tiniest statue of St. Dominic under a tiny glass dome. If your vision isn't 20/20 you'd miss it entirely. The statue is almost directly underneath the feet of the crucified Jesus. They make a real big deal over that Saint. He is part of a huge procession twice a year when he is delivered to another church.

After the mass, there was a man in a simple white tunic and a wooden cross on a string around his neck. People were hovering around him. My mother said that he was a famous healer from Columbia, that when he comes to Nicaragua at least five thousand people fill the stadium to get a chance to touch him. And he happened to be there in the little church of Santo Dominguito.

Well, you should have seen my ma and my Aunt Marcia making a beeline for him.

I never knew my ma to believe in such things before, but there we were. Aunt Marcia went up to him and asked him to lay his hands on Tete because she has a tumor. And Tete went up to him and and he put his hand on her forehead and she began to fall backwards and some man caught her and held her. Meanwhile, the healer, who everyone calls El Hermano Pablo (Brother Paul) spoke to her. At first, he was speaking in Spanish because I could catch some of the prayerful words. And she was surrounded by people with their arms extended, palms out, like I've seen in Black churches. And then I didn't understand him any more. At first I stood there, thinking, did my ma say Columbia or Brazil? Maybe he's praying in Portuguese. And then because of the others surrounding him who were also speaking, I realized that he was speaking in tongues. Let me tell you that there is nothing more confusing than to witness someone speaking in tongues in another language.

He prayed over her for a good while and my Aunt Marcia was crying, my ma was crying, Gioconda was crying, Fryda was crying, Tete's husband Rolando was crying, even I felt my eyes well up -- because there is something in that, having a group of people praying over you no matter what you believe. And I do believe that there is something to that, whether it is the power of positive energy or of suggestion or whatever, I do believe that miracles can happen. And then he was done with Tete and she went to kneel at her bench next to her husband, giving thanks.

Brother Paul laid his hands on someone else and then walked over to where Tete and Rolando were kneeling and then put his hands on Rolando's forehead and did the same to him. The poor guy has been crying and crying over Tete and we heard the healer praying for him to have strength.

So Tete says that she felt a heat flow down through her esophagus. And she felt very calm and relieved. My aunt Marcia says that when they get to Miami for treatment the doctors will look at Tete and say, "Treatment for what? There's nothing wrong with her."

Of course I would like that to happen. I am stupid. It's not so much that I would like that to happen so that Tete will avoid the suffering of chemo or radiation (which I have seen in Guru), but I want her to be cured so that they are not disappointed.


We are off to the ocean tomorrow.