Tobacco factory and public schools

Mike Peters

Tobacco production requires considerable manual labor.

The Tobacco Factory

On Monday, June 2nd, Team Nicaragua had an amazing opportunity to visit a ¨marquiladora,¨ which is otherwise known as a ¨sweat shop.¨ We were given a tour of a tobacco factory and had the chance to speak with the workers about the working environment. A couple of us also had the chance to literally work with them and get a very small feel of what they go through on a day to day basis. This factory was located in a town called Regadio, which is found in northern Managua and is of the poorest of the all the towns in Managua.

The gentleman leading the tour gave us all the information about what goes on in the factory...or did he? Many people do not know how these sweat shops are run and how they work. The tobacco factory was divided up into separate buildings, each with different steps for the process of making and distributing tobacco for cigars.

As the team was given this tour, we had a plethora of questions to ask. Most of the questions that were asked revolved around the health concerns for the workers, as well as their rights. The first thing that stood out to us was the fact that young girls between the ages of 12-16 were working there. They were separating leaves while in their school uniforms; they have obviously just left school. For these young girls to be inhaling the pesticides from these leaves as well as the tobacco from the leaves themselves for hours on end was a major concern.

The next building that we had visited was one of the many drying processes for the tobacco leaves. One of the questions we had asked the supervisor was if the women were being taken care of with things such as health screenings since they are standing on their feet from 7-5:30, separating leaves and their vines and inhaling all the toxic chemicals all day long. The supervisor had told us, ¨Yes, these women are given health screenings.¨ After the tour had ended, I personally went to talk with these workers and had asked them if they were given health screenings. One woman had said ¨No, we are not given any health screenings.¨ Another question we had asked the supervisor is why the workers were not given any face masks. He replied with ¨this part of the process does not involve any toxic chemicals so they would be fine without them.¨ After the tour I had also asked the women if they suffer from any health complications while they work. One woman responded, ¨Yes, in fact some people actually faint from how much of a nuisance the odor of the chemicals can be.¨

These are the things workers go through in Nicaragua, all so major companies in the United States can make their profit. It is important for people to make themselves aware of the types of factories there are that make and process the things that they use in the United States. We must reach out to the community and spread the word on how we can create possibilities to give workers better rights and how their health can be better protected.

The Public Schools

Earlier during this day, Team Nicaragua had also been given the great opportunity to visit the public school system. We had the chance to go into classrooms and talk with the young children, the teachers, and more impressively, the principle of the school.

All of grades K through 12 had actually been on one main campus, all separated by different buildings. One building was for the Pre-kindergarteners, the next building was for K-6, and the final building was for 7-12.

Among the clutter of the buildings, it was amazing to see the hope of all the children on campus. We had a chance to talk and play with the children and we learned that all the children were incredibly eager to learn. We had walked into a 6th grade classroom and almost became extremely emotional when they performed a couple of presentations for us. One of these presentations was about what they feel their rights as citizens should be, including rights to great education and good health. They had also performed a song for us and, in return, we had taught them how to do the ¨Hokey Pokey.¨

It was truly amazing how aware they are of themselves, despite everything from lack of resources and the number of students who actually graduate and further their education. Many people, such as in the United States think that people in developing countries, such as this one, have a lack of knowledge and intellectuality. From a first hand experience, I know that these children are truly amazing and have such beautiful spirit.