A History of the Goyena Community

An example of a typical building constructed out of cement block in Goyena, Sutiaba.
An example of a typical building constructed out of cement block in Goyena, Sutiaba.

Goyena's Past & Present

August 26, 2011 - Goyena, León Department, Nicaragua

Overview: ViviendasLeón has been working in the rural community of Goyena, located in the indigenous region of León known as Sutiaba, since 2001. This region extends west from the city to the Pacific Ocean. The community has five neighborhoods governed by three separate community boards of directors: Nueva Vida, Aristides Sanchez and Las Parcelas. There are more than 250 families living in Goyena, many or these are households occupied solely by mothers and their children. Fathers and sons are often working in neighboring countries such as Costa Rica and Panama due to lack of employment in Nicaragua. Between 75 and 80 percent of the children attend school through the sixth grade and children are now continuing their education through the 11th grade. However, the quality and relevance of the curriculum pose significant problems. 

 History: The formation of the community of Goyena dates to the Spanish colonial era. The origin of its name is based on the conquest of the Spanish, made in the years 1500-1522 where the indigenous of Sutiaba lost their struggle, and Spanish domination was imposed. A colonialist by the name of Goyena, using the right of conquest began the process of expropriation of land. Between 1500 and 1600, the encomienda system was established, which legalized the trafficking or sale of indigenous people. Under this system, the encomendero was the king of Spain, who therefore became the owner of lands previously inhabited by the indigenous people. Upon the death of Goyena, the land passed into the hands of his heirs. During the 1900s with the opening of the Nicaraguan Agrarian Institute there began a process of allocation of land to farmers. It is from this period that the community of Goyena was established. In the 1980s, land reform was introduced. The land was given to local campesino farmers and their families who joined in cooperatives or continued working independently. 

Location: The community of Goyena is a small area about 9 km west of the municipality of Leon. Prior to the devastation of Hurricane Mitch in 1998, 72 families lived at considerable distances from one another around the Cooperative Aristides Sánchez, Las Parcelas Goyena (in what is now known as Goyena Sur) and those who lived on the edges of roads, and on the river bank. After the hurricane, some municipalities such as Posoltega suffered significant losses and its remaining population was moved to form a new neighborhood in Goyena named Nueva Vida. Others who had lived along the river and roads were also relocated to this new neighborhood. 

The Population & the Local Economy: The patchwork neighborhoods that are now Goyena, have little agricultural development due to lack of funding, available land, and technical support. There is no industrial development within the region and the only source of temporary employment is cultivation of sugar cane and peanuts, for large corporate agricultural producers. 

Those who do not work as day laborers for the large farms are engaged at home producing poultry, pigs, goats, peliguelles, vegetables, feed grains, fruit, and milk. Men between the age of 17-45 years are engaged in agricultural work, whether they work their own small properties, or are working on large farms for corporations. Some work as day laborers in construction, and collecting and selling firewood. However, due to the economic situation nationally, there is a migration rate of 25% annually of the population, most of these fathers and sons in search of work in neighboring countries. 

The women of this community between the ages of 13-65 years old comprise 65% of the population and are mostly dedicated to domestic chores. Some sell the community’s limited products in Leon, while very few of them are day laborers or work only rarely on the large farms. Other common activities are harvesting peanuts and selling firewood.

Children between the ages of 8-15 years old work maintaining cattle, collecting firewood, selling peanuts and producing other similar agricultural products mentioned above. The average household is 7 people per family. 

Infrastructure & Pubic Services: Approximately 40% of houses are cement block, mainly in new neighborhoods that emerged after Hurricane Mitch. The remaining 60% of homes are built with planks, cardboard, sheets of zinc and plastic, and do not meet the most meager standards for safe and decent housing.

There is a two-room primary school located in Goyena Sur, which is currently open in the morning. There is a preschool and a four-room primary school, Rafaela Herrera, in the Nueva Vida neighborhood. This is open in both the mornings and afternoons serving grades K-8. Also under construction is a community center that will provide adult classroom space, an auditorium, library, and a communal kitchen.

There is a health center located in front of the Rafaela Herrera school, with one doctor and an auxiliary nurse serving the entire community. The life expectancy of the residents of the community is 55 years. 

Related Updates


New Rural Farmer's Markets

Our HCT coordinator, Leonor Zepeda has been working with the community to develop greater socio-economic development. To that end they have created a Rural Farmers Market idea, or Mercado Campesino where our local farmers can sell their produce and products to the community.

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