We take a quick drive through the 35-house community of Virgen Vieja before pulling up next to the blue concrete block and above-ground network of pipes (marking the spot of the shiny new well), the giant banner announcing the well inauguration to take place today and the sturdy tree from which hangs the ceremonial celebratory pinata. No proper celebration is complete without a pinata.
An electric pump fills a holding tank and pvc piping gravity feeds water to each of the modest homes in the community. The pump has only been turned on for the first time today.
Claudia literally does not stop beaming as she proudly turns on the tap that, for the first time, delivers water right to her front door (or just outside her front door anyway, which is more of a tarp really, but it shelters her family just the same).
Although dark clouds threaten to bring rain and dampen the festivities, latin tunes blaring from the sound system rented for the occasion summon the community. Always-prepared mothers arrive with umbrellas, and kids of all ages turn up, eager to take a crack at the pinata.
As we ceremoniously turn on the water at the wellhead declaring the beginning of the next chapter for Virgen Vieja, the clouds open up and unceremoniously announce the beginning of Nicaragua’s rainy season.
The party scatters. The sound system is covered with a tarp, the pinata is rescued from a soggy fate, and Uberlinda, mother of five and treasurer of the newly established water committee, invites us under some shelter to escape the downpour.
“I am very proud that the community chose me to serve on the committee,” she says. “I’d give up electricity for water instead!” she declares without hesitation as she looks through the sheets of rain spilling down from the gutterless roof and considers all the ways in which water will impact her, her family, and her community.
The arrival of the rainy season, at long last. The availability of clean drinking water, finally. In a place where resources are often scarce and pinata-worthy revelries are infrequent, today we celebrate abundance.