Family Feud: The Nicaraguan Edition

No, this isn’t a blog post about the popular game show currently being hosted by comedian Steve Harvey. Rather, it is about the realities of living in a community where owning land equals power.

In a recent incident, a woman we’ll call Marie, had been living on a certain prime piece of real estate in a small coastal community in Nicaragua for more than 15-years when a group of her family members decided that they wanted the property for a relative who, after living in the United States for 20 years, had chosen to return home. The group of approximately eight relatives arrived at Marie’s house on a Saturday morning with a lawyer in tow.

Like the game show where you invite family member to help you, Marie, being made aware by a cousin who disagreed with the family’s plan, had asked her siblings and mother to come to the house in support. Unlike the game show where the family comes well-dressed and armed with their sparkling personalities and thinking caps, Marie’s family attended but each member, except the mother, came armed with machete, stout tree branches, an axe and a gun, just in case there was a need to escalate things from talking to action.

Akin to the game show, both sides get the opportunity to answer questions and earn points in the hopes of being the big winner at the end of the day. After hearing from both sides that the property had been left to the Marie’s mother, and being shown the land title, the lawyer measured out the land and allocated a piece, behind the existing structure, for the returning expatriate. The lawyer was shocked to hear that they were family after having been told that the woman was a stranger who “just put up a house on their property.” He explained that Marie had as much right to the land as they did, and because she had been there already, they couldn’t move her.

Unlike the losers on the game show who still smile and applaud, the cousins were not happy with the results and continued to argue. The lawyer told them that he would be glad to take their money and go to court but that they would lose. These losers went away grumbling.

In Nicaragua this type of situation is happening more frequently as expatriates are returning home to claim what they believe is rightfully theirs. It doesn’t seem to matter what the relationship is either, if someone else owns the land under your house. Sadly, if you don’t have the land title that clearly states that the property belongs to you, (my father’s mother’s uncle’s daughter said…doesn’t get you far in these matters) you could find yourself unceremoniously ousted. And, you had better hope that someone in your family takes pity on you and gives you a new place to call home.

In an earlier attempt to remove Marie from her house, one of the cousins had set fire to the house after throwing out all her belongings while she was at church one Sunday. Marie’s only brother dared them to try it again.

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