Kylie's Nicaragua Blog
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Three Cowboys and a Mother’s Love

Franky with a picture of himself two years old on a horse


Riding in the heavy heat of the bus with the valley’s wind on my face, I watch little Ulisse bounce in the front seat along the bumpy, rural road. We chat with him through our translator. He’s smiling broadly, clutching a worn water bottle as he leads us to his older brother Franky. Suddenly he points ahead to a boy wearing a red knit hat, skillfully riding a horse. It’s Franky, leading his family’s cattle home. He smiles and waves as he passes by. We follow him home and are invited onto the front porch with his family.

His father admits with a laugh that when these white people came to his house looking for Franky, he was afraid the boy had gotten himself into big trouble. We all laugh along with him, trying to ease his unsureness. We all shake his hand and eagerly greet everyone who has come to watch curiously from the doorway. The 11-year-old boy who was confident on his horse a few moments ago now shyly retreated behind his mother.

Smiling confidently with a mixture of silver and altogether missing teeth, Franky’s father engages our group in hospitable conversation and attempts to grasp why we towed cameras and voice recorders up to his porch. We explain to him we are a group of students and journalists-in-training hoping to record the stories of Nicaraguans we meet. At first he misunderstands, as often happens with a language barrier and translator, but soon he is smiling again.

As the men begin to chat about the family’s past, my attention wanders to the wife and children leaning on the doorframe. My Spanish is limited, so ages and silly questions about dogs or photos are all I can manage. The translator, Franklin, has his hands full, so I am left to tiny words and body language. I smile and make much eye contact. After a small conversation with Franky, Ulisse and their mother, I ask if I may take photos of them. They all laugh and turn their faces shyly, so I ask Franky specifically. He smiles and ducks his head, but his mother prods him from the doorway.

He reacted the same way any young boy would act in front of a lens, laughing and trying to dart from the camera’s frame. I laughed aloud as I thought of my brother having to be heaviliy persuaded by me and my mother any time I attempt to take his picture.

I watch the mother put her arm across Ulisse’s chest unconsciously as she watches her husband tell stories. She turns to Franky and pulls off his red hat with a grin. He yanks it back laughing, and it’s easy for me to see a mother’s love transcends culture. Ulisse whines after Franky snatches his mother’s phone from his hands, and their mother pushes Ulisse’s hair back with a small smile to soothe him. I see my own mother in her and am reminded that the one thing people will always understand in any country is love.

As the conversation winds down, Franky comes out of the house with a framed photo of his mother on a horse when she was younger. He is sure to show everyone and returns to the house to pull another photograph off the wall. Ulisse joins him, and I am genuinely touched as this display of intimacy and acceptance. The boys are sure to specifically show me each picture and allow me to take a picture of each one.

They run out of photos to show us, and Phil expresses his gratitude and friendship by asking to eat a meal with them another night. In Nicaraguan culture, it is a great honor to host people at one’s house for dinner, and Franky’s family was happy to have guests.

We all shake hands and exchange “mucho gusto”s as dinner time approaches. Their smiles and waves told me I had made friends that afternoon.


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