For many people, Don Mauricio Martinez is the face of Ocotal. As the patriarch of the beautiful and ample mountain community, Mauricio cares for the land and often refers to the environment as if it were a lifelong friend of his. We sat down for an interview with Mauricio to find out more about his life and the community:
Sean: Thank you for speaking with me, Don Mauricio. Were you born in Ocotal?
Mauricio: No, I was born in El Jicote, a community about a kilometer from here. When I was growing up, no one lived in this area. I built a house here when I was around 30 years old. The guy who owned this land hired me to work in the community as a farmer, so I built a house here.
S: What was your youth like? How would you describe Ocotal in those times?
M: My youth was healthy and normal; I never had problems or fights with anyone. I had two cousins who I lived with, and we spent time learning how to play the guitar, the mandolin. We would spend entire nights just playing music. I worked a lot, mostly as a farmer, harvesting sugar cane, corn, coffee, and beans. Ocotal, at that time, was suffering because many pine trees were affected by a disease. The trees were all dry, and many were falling. There was a lot of deforestation by lumber companies, both legally and illegally. That’s why we decided it was important to care for the forest. We've been protecting and caring for it for more than thirty years now.
S: What are the best qualities of Ocotal? What does Ocotal have that other areas in Nicaragua do not?
M: The pine needle forests are truly amazing. We have amazing nature all around us, and they are important to take care of. The environment is what gives us life, water, and the air we breathe. We started to care for the land with of the help of the Danish Development Project "Manuel Lopez" (which years later helped formed the Coffee Cooperative "Manuel Lopez"), who came an gave us tools. Now we are lucky enough to have the Los Altos de Ocotal cooperative, so that we can show others the beauty we have around us. The members of the cooperative are good people, and also care for the environment.
S: What are some difficulties that the community of Ocotal faces?
M: Some people still do not recognize the need for working with the environment instead of against it. Much of the mountainous area that is closer to the city is damaged. We also need to focus beyond plant life, to animals too. We have a lot of beautiful wildlife to be seen. There are many types of birds and animals in Ocotal.
S: What is your vision for the future of Ocotal?
M: I hope that one day we can all be responsible for taking care of our community, that we can work together to live with the environment, because in the end it is what protects us. I also hope that the tourism cooperative will be able to show others the beauty of Ocotal and that they too can learn to value the natural environment. Too often, it is believed that we as humans should be separate from the wild when really we are just another part of it.