By Caterina Aragon.-
Dr. Miguel Ángel Aragón López was born in Managua, Nicaragua on August 31st of 1962. During his childhood, him, his two sisters, his father (a doctor), and his mother (housewife and seamstress) lived with other relatives in a house, near Miguel’s school. They often traveled to neighboring countries in family trips, and Miguel holds these memories as some of the fondest of his childhood. Unfortunately, in 1972, Nicaragua found itself a victim of a 6.3 magnitude earthquake, which destroyed the majority of houses in the capital. After the earthquake, Dr. Miguel helped his family to build new houses, and there he found himself interested in medicine like his father. Dr. Miguel Ángel Aragón López earned his degree in public health from the Universidad Autónoma de Nicaragua in Managua and worked as a medical director in the hospital of Granada during the Nicaraguan Revolution (1979-1990). In the 80’s, he decided to leave the country to continue his medical career in Mozambique, where he practiced in many hospitals in Maputo, treating citizens that were victims of the civil war that ended in 1992. Upon moving to Honduras, Dr. Miguel Ángel began his work in the Pan-American Organization of Health in Tegucigalpa in early 2001. Thanks to his contract, Dr. Miguel Ángel Aragón López has lived in Honduras, Guatemala, Maputo, Panama, El Salvador, and is currently residing in Asunción, Paraguay. Despite spending most of his life far from his country, Dr. Miguel Ángel Aragón López considers himself to be very close to his Nicaraguan roots, and was very kind to share with me, his daughter, his experience in how one can keep one’s roots how one can love one’s own country, and how one can learn to love other cultures around the world.
When you left Nicaragua to continue with your career, how did you manage to adapt to a new culture, language, and lifestyle?
First of all, I decided to go out to get to know the country in which I lived. Get to know the streets, get to know different places to eat. Since I traveled a lot with my family during my childhood, I didn’t reject the idea of trying new food or meeting new people, so I took advantage of being able to go out with my colleagues and having them introduce me to people. Like that, I formed a group of friends. In a way, they opened for me the doors to their culture and so I began to live it, influencing myself into wanting to know more.
In Africa, I had patients that came for medical consults, and when asked what was wrong, they would tell me that healers had diagnosed them with a certain disease, and they were looking to find out if it was true. I came to think that, in that culture, when one is not feeling well, you go to your village’s healer before coming to the doctor. So I began to study the culture of the healers, and I even visited some of my patient’s healers to see what it was they did.
Also, the fact of learning a new language. I found myself having to learn Portuguese, Italian, English, which I never had a studied foundation for. So I think that learning a new language is like having another new life. I mean, it opens opportunities for new horizons. For example, I could delight myself by reading works of Saramago in its original language, Portuguese, which is different from reading translated books. So I also think that learning other languages helps one to open up to the world, and become sort of like a sponge, trying to absorb almost everything. But I also think that that has to be an attitude that a person has to have initially, because you can get to a place and have an initial rejection to it, you will never integrate yourself into it, and you will not accept a culture because you find it very dissonant.
Sometimes it depends on your religious conception, and the same thing happens also because religion is a form of culture, of behavior, of a conceiving the world, and traditions. For example, many catholic traditions in Nicaragua are processions, so celebrating saints becomes tradition, culture. So if you close yourself, you cannot see the other face of the culture in the same country. I think that the attitude that one can have is quite important, and in that sense is that you will be able to integrate yourself. You will want to learn, you will want to accept. I think that the person that has most openness is the one that has bigger opportunities. It’s true that we have likes and preferences, but one dares to try and you might end up liking new things. I went here to a play of guaraní music and got to see many singers. It was splendid, because at the end there were about twenty-five harps playing, and I had never seen before in my life twenty-five harps together with children, adults, and teenagers, and it was a wonderful sound.
If you limit yourself, you won’t know new things. I think that to take opportunities is the most important thing. An open mind that’s always willing to learn. When you part from the principle that you know everything, you don’t learn.
Were you able to find, in the cultures that you experienced, things that reminded you of your home?
Yes. For example, here in Paraguay there are many similarities with Nicaragua. One is grilled meat, only that the grilling method is different. The music; even the tune of the rhythm of Paraguayan music is very similar to the one in Nicaraguan music. So, yes, I have found many similarities with Paraguay, and in Centro American countries everything sounds much alike, even when each one has its particularities.
How did you manage to not forget your culture and the country where you grew up, when living outside of Nicaragua?
First, I learned to love my culture. So when one learns to love their culture, you don’t give up on it. I mean, feeling proud of your roots, of where you were born, where you grew up, feeling satisfied of what you have lived. Of your family, because your family is part of your cultural learning. I believe that because I had a very fulfilling childhood, my dad was also concerned with teaching us new things like how to explore, not carried in different areas of the country to know, and so on. Then you are going to love and get to know their country and in the love of your family, you also take love for what you are seeing. There are people who deny their culture, its root because the employer thinks that it serves, which is retrograde. But no.
I also believe that I have kept my roots and i have learned to love through music, writing, reading, and recognize that we have our big things as Nicaraguans. When one has recognized their roots, their culture, and the loves, one will never forget. Always remember with much affection, and also when he returns, he comes back and is like a reconciled again with that culture. Then one keeps it alive, and you can keep alive in their descendants, their children, their siblings,. This is part of the whole experience.
One can also be the representative of their culture. Recently here in Paraguay I had a dinner of the workers and then there was a gentleman who sang, a musician, and then i went to play and sing Nicaraguan music and everyone was happy, happy. Then one to be also the promoter of the own culture, one he loves her. In Honduras we had exhibitions of paintings by artists Nicaraguans in topics of El Güegüense. With the support of the Nicaraguan Ambassador in Honduras we made that statement in the Central American bank.
I say, we should not simply be consumers of culture, if not creators and promoters of their own culture. I also believe that I have done as Nicaraguan in that, as a promoter of the culture of Nicaragua and as a creator of culture because i have also supported apart from writing with an association, we believe we did poetry competitions, contests of stories, published novels, we publish books of poetry. Then I feel very happy about it and where he arrived, he carried the culture with me and i promote. That is what i think keeps you alive in your roots. While you do not love it and don’t feel proud of them, not going to defend.
Do you love the cultures you gave lived in?
Yes, because it is how to recognize your own same in the sense that if i love and respect my culture also have to learn to respect the cultures of other countries and also to take honey, isn’t it? Africa i loved so much, the culture of the healers, shamans. It is one thing to read it in books and study them, another thing is to live with them. I met your meals because where we are was not only an African question, I had the opportunity to be with people from India. I met the culture varied with the Muslims also, northern Mozambique. These are things that are different but they are also interesting and one has to learn these things, mainly to recognize them and respect them, no? And absorb perhaps the good things that you can provide with new wisdom, new experiences, new customs that one do before they occur. If one is interested, you’re going to take advantage of.
Why did you decide not to live in Managua with your family?
For certain conditions that arose at the time of my decision. There were several conditions, family conditions, under professional conditions. I realized that my career in Nicaragua was not going to have much future because it was mixed between politics and professional aspects. Or I surrendered to the political situation or not, and I decided not to give in to political issue. But I knew that if I stayed, I would not have had much professional area. At the same time, created a new relationship that I had at that time with a foreign and even though she didn’t want to leave I said no, we better go. Ns ventured to go to another country, looking for a job and started from scratch. How many people at that time in Nicaragua in the years 80, he had to emigrate for political issues, conditions of war, by professional conditions to look for opportunities. I emigrate and I think that I am a citizen of the world, not a single country. Wherever you go, in addition to learn I am going to bring.
I am sure that some day I will return to my country, I don’t know if in my retirement but i don’t think i stop or stay there because I believe that the world is too beautiful to not know him and I believe we must have the ambition and vision of not staying confined to a single border artificially created by man because I don’t believe that they should exist across borders. I believe that the only borders that exist are the only ones that we ourselves. We live in a multicultural world, multifaceted and we must be part of that world. Learning about other cultures and travel. When I got to the southern region of Africa, there was a war. I came out of a country at war and came to another that was at war but we were able to move forward. I was in a country very confrontational as the Savior and now i am in a most peaceful country, Paraguay. We were in Haiti, another country conflicting but i think that everything has been a good experience, very varied, but I always felt in Nicaragua. I love my culture, but I also believe that we need to know others and live with other cultures. Let us not think that our culture is only one’s own or that there is no one better than the other, if not that things are very particular and you have to learn how to bring the best you have. The culture is part of life and if we live a limited life in this sense, we are going to live a culture limited. And sometimes we have to know other things, other cultures to appreciate our own.
Your children have had the privilege of living in several countries and grow with people of different cultures but in the moments that sometimes I find myself wondering which are my roots. What advice would you give if you see that we are confused about our identity and our roots?
Good, you had a very particular experience and i think that one of the serves much have a certain identity saying that ‘I am Nicaraguan, i am from El Salvador, I am this or that’ but you have a feature that are the parents of two different nationalities, of two different cultures, of two different languages. They were born in a country that is neither your mom or your dad and also toured several countries where they learned several languages and had an Anglo-saxon Education in the sense say, in English and with another methodology that had nothing to do with the educational methodology in the countries where they were. I would see it as a strength and not a weakness because they have had this particularity. I believe that your culture has been the family culture. In this case, Italian, part of Nicaragua. Then have seen culture, have seen the music, different literatures. At the same time you also need to identify how they feel, what are its roots or if you just want to identify a but i think that they have roots in several places and the nearest are the roots that you transmitted your family and that doesn’t mean that they are more than that of another. Because now you are in a different country and you are absorbing the culture of that country. And in the long run you’re going to feel more of that country to another country.
But I believe that in the first place one has to recognize that had something atypical but that will take you to an identity either unicultural or bicultural or multicultural. You have the advantage of being able to say that they are learning to be citizens of the world, and that is very important because as you culture, as is the development, to how communications are going to be citizens of the world because one day we can be here and we will be in another. I don’t think it has to be a discomfort you feel part of a site if you do not feel happy because you were in different places, you have learned lots of things, and you had the opportunity that many have not had, and I think that has to exploit and take advantage of the great horizon they have.
That message I want to give to the people in my university of the latino community or international community?
What I am going to say will be within, from my point of view, of how I have lived the things but I think the most important thing is that we do not lose the respect for persons, whatever their origin. It is neither more nor less. I believe that we all have the same rights, perhaps not the same opportunities because that’s not what we determine us but if we have the same rights as human beings and we have the right to be respected and recognized. The most important thing is wanting to learn from one another and support to all. We have to learn to be tolerant because there will always be abusers who want to go above the others but we all have a role to play in our society even in the same university as students not only to learn but also to give, to teach others in the learning process.
Also, the world is very nice for you to destroy and we have to keep it. Or we contribute to destroy it or contribute to benefit you because it is our responsibility as individuals and as citizens of the world.