Nina Alnes Haslie
- Thematic: Environment, development, labour, material culture, space/place, tourism
- Regional: Latin America and the Caribbean (Nicaragua and Cuba)
Working title: "We always fall back on the firewood": Making a life worth living between turtles, trees and NGOs at the border of Pedro Marín Nature Reserve, Nicaragua
Key words: Conservation, development, ecotourism, knowledge, labour, nature, precarity
Introduction: Tour of the ruined projects
Soon after we became neighbors on the narrow strip of sand leading from the village of San Silvestre, Nicaragua and into the mangrove forest in August 2011, Doña Romina wanted to show me around. These short memory trips were quite disheartening for me, but not for my guide, it seemed, as she walked and paddled happily in front of me. To her, I was then yet to learn, trying and failing, and then trying again, was the only way she knew to live her life. The part of the village where she lived, situated just at the border of the mangrove forest, was after all referred to as ”where the poor people live”.
Walking along the beach – which was littered with plastic bags, broken fishing equipment and fish guts – and towards the mangrove reserve, Romina pointed out a little, once blue boat, now rusty and full of holes. She told me that the boat had arrived years ago with a project aiming to teach local youth about the mangrove forest, the environment, and tourism. The project managers had also brought a few computers, now standing dusty and broken in the Co-Management Office, not far from the entrance to the mangrove reserve. I later learned that the project had been a relative success – until the money had stopped coming and everything started to rust and rot. No reason had been given, as Romina could recall.
Some days later, when we paddled into the mangroves in her small, dugout canoe to fetch firewood for her cooking fire – a canoe she steered with self-taught perfection – we passed other ruins of a more intangible character. She showed me a place, a narrow canal, where she and a few other women a few years back had been taught how to breed mussels. There were no visible remnants left, only a narrow, overgrown canal in the mangrove forest. The project had started out well, she told me; they had managed to get the mussels growing, and they had learned how to measure them and when to harvest them. “It was all very scientific,” she said. Doña Romina was illiterate, but her son, whom she had managed to put through school, had taught her how to write and read numbers. Then things had started to go badly, and the money stopped coming.
Later that same day we walked across a plain of dry land further into the forest, and she told me “a project” (an active agent in her narrative) some time ago had planned to plant precious trees there. Before that, she told me, another project had built a large rancho. She could not remember for what purpose, and now it stood rotting in the southern end of the plain. The tortugeros and the leñateros (people, mostly men, who made a living from gathering sea turtle eggs and firewood) used it as a shelter towards the rains, she said. The grass stood tall, not a tree could be seen, except for the mangroves around the edges, but Romina showed me some small, dry, brownish sprouts hidden beneath the grass. Nobody had ever come to water them, and they had been forgotten. The place was called Palo de Miel – The Honey Tree.
Where the poor people live
The mangrove forest was known to many as the Pedro Marín Nature Reserve, and I was there to study how the people living on the margins of the forest made a life worth living in that place, which they had named "Where the poor people live". I was also interested in how conservation and development work affected – or not affected – the villagers. They had for a long time depended on the mangroves for a living, but over the last few years access to sea turtle eggs and firewood had become limited, in part due to conservation efforts, and my neighbors were adapting to other resources, like development projects and tourism. Conservation and development projects came in waves to San Silvestre, one after another like the Pacific swells, but they tended to fall apart. NGOs are said to bring flows of funding, knowledge and people, but I was to learn that my neighbors in the village were not getting on any flow, but rather lived by a tidal river that ebbed and flowed and ebbed again, and never took them anywhere. Rather, they, in their own words, "kept falling back on the firewood", and it seemed that working there, with the flexibility the mangrove forest provided, was preferable to other jobs. In my Thesis I will give several answers as to why this was so, drawing on anthropological literature on hunters and gatherers, temporality, development, tourism and labour. Because, in the same way as tourism is no direct passport to 'development' or prosperity, conservation and/or development work is not necessarily better than other forms of labor - like wood gathering - for all.
(All person- and place names are pseudonyms).
- Haslie, Nina Alnes (2017). ”Let’s Serve the Tourists Sea Turtle Eggs” – and Other Things You Are Not Supposed to Say at Conservation Meetings. Social Analysis: Journal of Cultural and Social Practice. ISSN 0155-977X.
- Haslie, Nina Alnes (2013). Sukker, sjørøvere og sement: Kampen om Verdensarven i Trinidad de Cuba. Arr. Idéhistorisk tidsskrift. ISSN 0802-7005. (1-2)
- Haslie, Nina Alnes (2016, 30. august). Salonghistorie - En mørk felthistorie fra Nicaragua . [Radio]. NRK P2.
- Haslie, Nina Alnes (2016). Tvangstøyen . Dagens næringsliv. ISSN 0803-9372.
- Haslie, Nina Alnes (2016). “Vi faller alltid tilbake på mangroveveden”: Om motstandsdyktighet blant vedsankere i San Silvestre, Nicaragua.
- Haslie, Nina Alnes (2015). “We are not experts” – On the management of knowledge, sea turtles and development in Juan Venado Nature Reserve, Nicaragua.
- Haslie, Nina Alnes (2013). Companion Trees and Turtles in the Juan Venado Nature Reserve.
- Haslie, Nina Alnes (2013). Looking for Sea Turtles between the Island and the Sea: A Story about the Tide, the Moon and a Machine Gun .
- Haslie, Nina Alnes (2012). Practicing cultural heritage: On the difficulties of freezing a city in time.
- Haslie, Nina Alnes (2011). Kampen om verdensarven . Dagsavisen. ISSN 1503-2892.
- Haslie, Nina Alnes (2010). Fra brev til blogg. Underveis - moving is knowing, I: Julia Steen Loge (red.), Gull og Grønne Skoger: Norske Interesser i Latin-Amerika. Solidaritet Forlag. ISBN 978-829191626-2. Del av kapittel 2. s 34 - 37
- Haslie, Nina Alnes (2009). Å leve med arv. Om forhandling med fortid, nåtid og framtid på Verdensarvstedet Trinidad de Cuba.