From: "Felipe Stuart C." <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: Hommage to Jan: para Marta Lorena
HOMMAGE TO JAN
A TECHNICIAN WHO HELPED NICARAGUANS
The following homage to Jan Haemmoust written by Nestor Napal appeared
on the editorial page of the Managua daily El Nuevo Diario July 25, 1998
Eve of the 45th Anniversary of Moncada
Translated by Felipe Stuart
for Jan's English-speaking friends
and for Marta Lorena and their children.
Yesterday a Belgian technician died in Cuba. A resident of Nicaragua since
the early 80s, he made important technological contributions that went to
better the standard of living of Nicaraguan campesinos
and of campesinos from in other countries of the region.
A humble, effective fighter for social justice,
he exemplified professional capacity.
Jan had a simple and musical name; and an unpronounceable surname -
Haemmoust. Not many hours ago in Cuba his adventure in this world came to
an end. Defeated by one of the illnesses that he scorned, in love as he
was, with life. He was not famous. But he certainly did more for
thousands of Nicaraguan men and women than many of the famous.
In these days of depression and thirst Jan made for a refreshing example.
A brilliant scientist, he chose, above all, to be a popular educator and
fighter for social justice. He dedicated his life to the recovery and
ongoing recreation of technology that could really be appropriated and
controlled by working people. He always understood grassroots control of
technology to be a necessary tool in the struggle for deep-going social
change. Thousands of Nicaraguan, Haitian and Cuban campesinos who today
make their own rope pumps or hydraulic rams don't know the name of this
silent inventor who never claimed patent rights.
Jan created notable inventions and innovations that could have made him
rich, had he wanted. But he chose the high road, putting his work at the
service of the poor. He got by, and sometimes on less, but meanwhile he
accumulated an enormous wealth in what really counts: unusual anecdotes
with mostly happy endings, farm families from all over waiting to share a
meal with him, humble producers who were enamoured with his equipment and
copied them, dismantled them, and put them together again to suit their
Like any real creator Jan was very much a poet. Water was his preferred
muse. And the awards ceremonies for his poetry were always tumultuous.
Like that midnight in eastern Cuba when, after a long day's work,
thousands of local ears took to the ground, in impotent silence, waiting
for signals to arrive through 3,000 meter-long pipes that had been laid
down over a period of ten years, waiting in vain. No one believed much in
the strange apparatus that had been installed among them; that the water's
own energy would allow it to be pumped to them. Then came the bursts as
the pipes spat out small forgotten objects they had concealed for years;
and then an incredible blast, the miracle of water. Then hugs and cries of
joy. And then swigs of rum. Jan received many an award like that.
Jan was no engineer. He knew that the social utility of his contributions
depended much on who held power. He had a constant political optimism that
could only be understood because he so often observed the creativity of
ordinary people, the enormous reserves of wisdom of men and women whom
neo-liberal dogma casts as losers. These small, recurring triumphs
nourished his hopes day by day.
Jan left many fruits in Nicaragua, including two beautiful children who can
be proud of their father. To them and to all, his simple message will
continue to be repeated throughout the land: demystify technology, study
it, control it, re-invent it, make it your own to prepare for social
changes that will inexorably come. And he will say it softly, without
show, smiling as always.