Arsenio: a Managuan street kid's tragic portrait/Casa Alianza FWD

Tom Boland (
Thu, 19 Nov 1998 18:09:32 -0400

Date:          Wed, 18 Nov 1998 11:08:39 -0600 (CST)
Subject:       [rapid-response] Arsenio

November 17th, 1998
Managua, Nicaragua.


His 11 short  years are like a Greek tragedy, where everything goes
wrong right from the beginning. An unwanted child. His mother left him
when he was 7 months old. And his father was an alcoholic. But he was
his papa after all, and Arsenio loved him.

Dad would take him to the bars and the boy would watch him get drunk.
He would accompany him to the brothels and wait patiently. His
formative years were filled with negatives. And his father would beat
the little boy, leaving his face battered and blue, confusing his
developing mind; relating violence to love.

But the beatings got worse, and at the grand of old age of eight, his
beaten body could take no more. And he headed to the streets. And to
the glue. Arsenio quickly fell into the grips of the toxic glue,
inhaling the fumes and getting high. With his cute smile and his big
brown eyes, people would feel sorry for him and give him spare change
with which he serviced his addiction.

But in August of this year, that all began to change. A new program sqrt
Casa Alianza sqrt was in town, and he was invited by the street educators
to give life a chance. Positive role models, no more beating, no more
hurt. Perhaps a tad more difficult than most, the hyperactive Arsenio
tested our unconditional love to the limits. But he started to turn
his life around. He started to play. He started to start over. He

But. The torrential rains started to fall on October 30th. Hurricane
Mitch was upon us and all hell was let loose. Bored with being stuck
inside the Crisis Center all day, and after a small disagreement with
another resident, Arsenio wanted out. He needed a bag of glue. He
wanted to escape reality with a plastic bag full of glue to dream of
his mother, wherever she may be.

Soaked. Shivering. Scared. After a few hours the sad creature wanted
help. Seriously high, Arsenio climbed the fence of the building trying
to reach the sheltered balcony. He made it over the spiked fence and
reached up to the fuse box on the highest ledge. The rain fell in
sheets. Not even the dogs were out.

And then things took a tragic turn. No-one is sure about what happened
next. A spark. A scream. He slipped. And fell. Hurricane Mitch caused
another victim. Our little fighter was impaled on the fence, his
little eyes facing the troubled sky. The rain mixed with the tears as
his spinal cord was severed. His legs fell limp.

I saw little Arsenio in the Aldo Chavarria public hospital this
afternoon. Lying flat on his back, in the hallway of this overcrowded
public hospital, a tube replacing his sphincter. I stupidly asked him
how he was doing. Paraplegic, the little boy raises his arms and we
hug. He shows me a photo of the bloodied fence where he once again
lost his childhood. Another shot on the roll showed him playing

We have a nurse with our little boy 24 hours a day. His friends from
the Crisis Center visit him every afternoon. They realize that but for
the grace of God.. He fidgets and drops beans on his pajamas as he
tries to eat the tepid beans and rice he is presented for dinner. We
hold hands. Few words are exchanged, I don't know what to say. I fake
a smile and he looked at me. The unspoken words of 'why me?'.

I promised to go back tomorrow. We need better medical care. The
hospitals are washed out. The machines don't work. The boy child
suffers. Life is a son of a Mitch..

We hug again. We say good bye. And as I turn, little Arsenio still has
the courage to smile. =========

If you would like to see photos of Arsenio, please see

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