Nicaragua: In Search Of My Namesake – Bernardino Giusto



Bernardino Giusto (late 1940s).

In December of 1950 there were thirteen people buried in Managua’s central cemetery, eleven adults and two children. Some of the surnames listed in the Registry of Deaths for that month are not unfamiliar: Mantica, Lacayo, Somoza, Downing, Castillo, etc.

There is one person, however, that I recognize more than the rest because he was a member of my family.

On Friday the 8th, Bernardino Giusto, a distinguished coffee farmer and business man, was buried in the “primera clase” section of the cemetery after having passed away the previous day.

I am named after him.

Bernardino, or “Nardino” as he was known to many, or “Mininí” as he was known to the family, was an Italian gentleman who immigrated to Nicaragua in the late 1880s. Sometime after settling in Managua, he married Dolores “Lolita” Bonilla, who passed away decades before Bernardino did in 1917 for reasons yet to be uncovered.

Both of them are buried together.

I’ve visited the central cemetery many times since arriving last October, primarily in search of family members or historical figures, and often out of pure curiosity or the hope of serendipity.

I had been looking for Bernardino’s grave for a while and had found it, but didn’t know it. At some point in the last few years, someone stole his grave marker, the marble plaque on which his name was inscribed, which made finding the grave very difficult.

The small chapel which houses his and his wife’s remains has fallen into neglect and is in serious need of restoration.

Bernardino and Lolita Giusto's grave, 2012 (photo: Bernard Gordillo)

And since I didn’t know the name of his wife until recently, I wasn’t able to make the connection. A visit to the cemetery office solved the mystery.

I forgot to mention, Bernardino is not a blood relative.

I do consider him, however, my third great-grandfather. Let me explain.

My maternal great-grandmother died when her daughter (my grandmother Amalia) was just a little girl. My then widowed great-grandfather asked his close friend Bernardino (Amalia’s godfather) if his daughter could live with him. (I suppose that a two-parent household was seen as more ideal in that age than it is now.)

So my grandmother was raised by her godfather, who, by the way, never had any children of his own. Thus, Amalia had the great fortune of going through much of her life with two fathers.

The discovery of Bernardino’s grave—missing plaque notwithstanding—and learning more of his life is a terrific boon, to be sure. There are more details yet to be discovered. But, for now, I know way more than I did months ago.

Bernardino Giusto's tomb, Central Cemetery, Managua (photo: B. Gordillo)

[N.B. This is not an official Department of State website or blog. The views and information presented are my own and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the U.S. Department of State.]

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