The peace activists who sent Kim to Nicaragua to search for a sister island

Bainbridge Island peace activists were frustrated and enraged by the U.S. government’s backing of the Contra war against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. In hopes of circumventing governments and creating a different relationship with people from the embattled nation, 90 Islanders held a pot-luck dinner fund-raiser and sent Kim Esterberg off to Managua with the Seattle Sister Cities delegation in search of a sister island.

The most Kim expected from this initial foray was more discussion with the Sandinista’s Sister Cities Office, but before he could consult a map to pinpoint his destination, he found himself aboard a rusty blue ferry crossing the 9 mile stretch of Lake Nicaragua, taking in his first view of Ometepe.

His guides from the Sister Cities Office found Moyogalpa’s mayor Diego Martinez who was intrigued by the idea of a sister island. Martinez set off with Kim on a tour of the Island in his ailing red jeep. In 1986, Ometepe’s roads consisted of a few dirt tracks and Kim was riding in one of only 27 trucks belonging to a population of 24, 000 people.

Kim Esterberg with Diego Martinez and Samuel Viales, the mayors of Moyagalpa and Altagracia, in 1986.

Kim Esterberg walks with the mayors of Ometepe’s two municipalities, Diego Martinez of Moyagalpa and Samuel Viales of Altagracia.

After a swim in the lake at twilight, Diego introduced Kim to Altagracia’s mayor: “This guy is from our Sister Island!” When Kim asked the mayors what would be the one thing future siblings from the U.S. could do for their country – thinking to himself “They need everything!”—the response provided the cornerstone for the emerging relationship: “The one thing we need is respect.”

While Bainbridge Islanders’ first reached out to bridge a foreign policy chasm, the Sister Island relationship quickly broadened beyond political affiliations. When Islanders from each country started getting to know real people from the other Island, there was no need for or room for political identities. BOSIA’s intentions to be more than a Sandinista solidarity group became clear to Ometepinos when students helped build a classroom in San Silvestre, an anti-Sandinista community.

Kim Esterberg with Ometepe map

Kim learns of Ometepe for the first time when he visits Managua with the Seattle Sister Cities delegation.

Mooyagalpa’s main street. Ometepe had two telephones and few roads in 1986.