By Oswaldo Rivas

We got up before dawn to travel to the Island of Guanacastal, a community 130 km (80 miles) north of Managua, Nicaragua. My travel companions were silent, some lost in their thoughts and others sleeping, shivering due to the cold of the early morning hours.

As we passed Chichigalpa, a small and peaceful town near the San Cristobal volcano and where the famous Nicaraguan rum Flor de Cana is made, we started seeing the immense sugar cane plantations, the main component in the production of sugar and rum.

Shortly after leaving the main road we finally reached the island, now more commonly known as the Island of the Widows. More than 100 women of the 250 families living in the small village have lost their husbands to chronic renal failure, a disease that paralyzes kidney function by preventing the body from eliminating waste and excess fluid.

During our visit, we listened to the sad stories told by a 25-year-old who had just lost her husband recently and of a 60-year-old who had been crying for her dead husband for many years. The common ground; all their men worked in the sugar cane fields.

We met Dona Cristina washing clothes in the Chipaska river, near the town. She is 50 years old and the mother of six children. As she takes care of the house and the smallest children, the older ones help her financially.