Kingman resident survives earthquake and revolution before emigrating to America

Vilma Weigand lived through an experience that many people do not survive.

It was Dec.

23, 1972 in her hometown of Managua, Nicaragua.

An earthquake measured at 7.0 on the Richter scale struck, essentially destroying the city.

"We had just moved into a new home with an earthquake-proof foundation a month earlier," said Weigand, who was 14 at the time.

"The house suffered only minor damage, but we had to leave the city with everyone else.

"We migrated to my mother's hometown of Jinotepe, about 45 kilometers away, and stayed with relatives for six months," she said.

The two-story home Weigand's family lived in prior to the earthquake was heavily damaged.

She said an uncle and an aunt with cancer died in Managua that day.

Weigand is the fourth of seven children born to Adolfo Lopez and Vilma de Lopez.

She has two brothers and four sisters, all of whom survived the earthquake.

Lopez was a stockholder and engineer of a private television station in Managua.

During her senior year of high school, Weigand traveled on a student exchange program to Waxahatchie, Texas.

She stayed four months, polishing up her English-speaking ability, before returning to Managua.

From 1976 to 1978, Weigand attended Catholic Central America University, where she studied biology and natural resources.

But in 1978 the Sandanistas' revolution began.

"My father sent a sister and I to Spain to live with an older sister in Madrid," Weigand said.

"I stayed there for a year, then got a scholarship to the University of Wisconsin.

"I was fortunate to get all my credits transferred and went in there as a junior," she said.

"I picked up my bachelor's degree in biology in 1980."

During her time in Wisconsin, she took six months of flying lessons and soloed in a Piper Tomahawk, Weigand said.

Weigand returned to Nicaragua in 1981 and got a job with the office of the Minister of Agriculture.

She was sent to Cuba the following February to study nematology, which deals with micro organisms that feed on the roots of plants and damage crops.

After four months of training in Cuba, Weigand got a certificate in nematology.

She returned to Managua and was put in charge of the Minister of Agriculture laboratory, where she stayed two years.

"I began to feel the political pressure toward the end of my time (in the lab),' Weigand said.

"I have never been loyal to any political party and have considered myself a citizen of the world since I was a teenager so that I could feel comfortable anywhere."

A United Nations scholarship enabled Weigand to travel to Copenhagen, Denmark in 1984 to study seed pathology.

She studied six months and spent an extra three months in research in Denmark, Weigand said.

She followed that with another scholarship in 1985 for three months of Christian training with the Youth with a Mission (YWAM) organization in Scotland.

In 1985, Weigand's parents lived in Honduras.

She met her husband, Thane Weigand, there and they married in March 1986.

Weigand came to the United States for good in December 1986.

She became an American citizen in 1991, the same year she moved to Kingman from Virginia.

The move came about when her husband, who works for the National Park Service, was transferred to Lake Mead, Weigand said.

Weigand said she began her own freelance business in Spanish translation and interpretation in 1992, and is an accredited court interpreter.

In her spare time, Weigand enjoys playing the guitar and piano, exercising, reading, baking and traveling.

"I have a good excuse to travel," Weigand said.

"My parents are back in Nicaragua," she said.

"My two brothers live in Florida, and my sisters live in Michigan, California, Canada and Spain."

Neighbors is a feature appearing each Monday in the Kingman Daily Miner.

If you have an interesting story you'd like to share, contact Terry Organ at 753-6397 Ext.