Saturday XXIV • 9 September 2007

Been thinking about Puerto Cabezas this week. A category five laid down there on Thursday.

A few years ago I spent a week on the isolated Nicaraguan coast, lying around in hammocks, drinking batidos sin leche, experiencing an awfully advanced stage of giardia, and avoiding eye contact with the various America’s Most Wanted characters slithering around with schoolgirls. Definitely remote enough for a fugitive: getting there took a 12-hour drive down a dirt “road” in a retired US school bus (SRO unless you were a chicken and thus got your own seat in an overhead rack), followed by four hours in a cigarette boat down the Rio Coco.

At the time, things out there looked like this. Now they look more like this.

I don’t know how the story of Felix got buried this week. It’s wild.

Forget the other links here and just read the AP story.

Clark bobbed in the ocean for more than three days until relatives of his dead friend, Vendless, found him in the water near the Honduran coast.

His body was covered with open wounds from exposure to the sun and sea, and he was burned by boat fuel and a rope that he had used to tie himself to his sinking vessel. He was delusional, unable to explain what happened or recognize his friends.

Later, on land, he sat on his couch in Puerto Cabezas, still shocked nearly speechless. When Vendless' mother, Rosa Miller, came to see him, he told her through tears that he held on to her son's body until Thursday, when the stench became too much to bear and he let his friend sink.

Miller broke down crying with him, kissing him on the forehead and reassuring him that they would try to find Vendless' remains.


In this installment of Know Your Empire, a bit on the US-Puerto Cabezas Connection.

US marines left their names (like Clark and Miller, above) and sometimes their blue eyes among the residents of Puerto Cabezas, and their grandchildren, during two lengthy occupations in the first half of the 20th century.

Puerto Cabezas and Burlington, Vermont, are sister cities. Burlingtoners often organize delegations to Nicaragua, especially in the wake of catastrophe like 1998’s Hurricaine Mitch.

In 1984, the United States mined the harbor at Puerto Cabezas. Really pissed off The Hague. But Ronald Reagan thought it would be good for local residents. They were getting a little bit ahead of themselves.

In 1961, with Nicaragua into the second generation of the Somoza kleptocracy, a regime more than friendly with the US, a group of mercenaries set sail from Puerto Cabezas for Cuba. The mercenaries were defeated at the Bay of Pigs.