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The moment had the potential for tragedy: Latin machismo, 300 years of bad blood and war between the English-speaking blacks of Nicaragua's Atlantic coast and the natives of the Spanish-speaking areas of the country (the debate was being carried on in Spanish, which Welcome translated for me later), an uneasy truce between the guerrilla forces of the Atlantic region and the soon-to-be-voted-down Sandinista government, and a sprinkling of Americans like myself, who were doubtess thought to be working for the CIA.
Welcome's barrel chest swelled; his honor was at stake. "You keep on, and I will shoot you," he said, his voice rising shrilly. Abruptly he raised the rifle and let loose six more rounds, each coming closer, until the sand was practically flying in the huevero's face.
"While I am here, you will not take eggs," Welcome said. "When I am gone, you do what you want, but these little turtles arc going back to the sea."
After what seemed an eternity, the huevero rose and backed away—a slow, purposeful retreat. Escorted by the guards, the group of poachers left the beach, leading horses with empty packs.
As we hiked back to camp, I asked Welcome what he would have done had the man kept on digging. "I do not know," he said. He was shaking. "I never shoot no one. I was in the revolution. I was in the war. I carried a gun all over creation, but I never fire a shot the whole time.... Just now was the only time. I told them and told them and begged them not to, and, mon, they make me vexed."
I shook my head and said, "They have nothing. They're trying to survive, too."
"But mon, after they take the last turtle egg, it just be worse. They still have nothin' and the turtles be gone. Then what? Sit there on the flat of their ass with nothing to do."
We walked the rest of the way back to camp in silence.