So we decided to try and help him.
I happen to be in San Juan del Sur now – taking a chill working vacation visiting the Central American pueblo where I lived in 2012 - and staying at a hotel only a few blocks from where it happened. Nicaragua certainly has its share of problems, a desperately poor country with a history of violent conflict, but this attack even stunned the locals.
The attacker – a 22-year old man from San Juan del Sur named Faubricio Valensuela, was hopped up on some kind of drugs (crack? crank?) when he was walking along that evening. One rumored version of the events says that he thought the little boy was actually a stray dog, and went to kick it just for sport. Of course, that alone is terrible, though not that uncommon in Nicaragua, where they don’t treat stray dogs and cats great, and also fight roosters. Another version says that Faubricio thought the boy was a soccer ball, though it's hard for me to envision either of those being true.
The attacker was eventually apprehended and arrested, though justice is rarely served through the courts here, as the jails are bursting at the seams, there are very few resources to even feed and house all the criminals, and corruption dictates that only the small class of wealthy people are served. Actually, the whole town did want the police to release him from custody, so they could inflict their version of street justice upon him.
As the video went viral and appeared on every television station around Central America, people talked about the incident incessantly. The cops raided a few drug houses here in town near Crazy Crab and the bridge and busted some known-drug dealers, though they will most likely be back out on the streets soon, or replaced by two more.
I found Juan Carlos, only 18 months old, in good health and spirits. Raised by his single mother, Carolina, they live in a humble structure that looks like a locked up garage, across from a hostel (where the security camera is located.) Carolina was happy to talk to us and explained what happened in detail, and that her niño had been checked by the village doctor (who offers very basic medical care.) But she was worried because her son needed an MRI in case of a concussion or the possibility of a long term brain injury, but that cost $250 plus money to travel to Managua, the capitol, for the procedures, which could add up to a month or two’s salary for the typical Nicaraguan.
Bad stuff happens. Human beings do terrible, unspeakable things to each other every day, and we know about them more and more thanks to technology and social media. There’s so much hate, anger, and negativity out there, it’s extremely hard not to be so overwhelmed that we just tune it out and turn the other way. While we can’t always control what happens in the world, we can control our response. And in this case, thanks to the love of big-hearted strangers and both locals and foreigners in San Juan del Sur, I’m ecstatic to declare that positivity has prevailed.
Thanks so much for helping my new friends, little Juan Carlos and his mom, Carolina.