The History of TraderBrock Part 1 - Contra Cross

by John White

Our eBay stores, Traderbrock and Molamagic have shipped to thousands of people around the world. In the process we have made many friends. A number of them have asked how our business got started causing me to reflect and wonder myself.

It actually started at the tail end of my Peace Corps experience in Honduras. I was there 1988-1990, right in the middle of the Contra/Sandinista war. I was a small business advisor but that isn't the story. I was coming to the close of my service and planning to return to the USA when a friend of mine, the military attaché at the US embassy asked me if I wanted to accompany him to a Contra rehabilitation center. Those were days when nobody wanted to go out in the country alone. It also was against Peace Corps policy for volunteers to go anywhere near a Contra camp. But I figured, what are they going to do, send me home? So off we went.

It was an eye opener. The camp was full of wounded warriors learning to make furniture, brooms, painting and more. But what caught my eye were the fellows making Contra Crosses. That was the name for a whole array of jewelry made from ammunition. I had heard that the Contra Crosses played a role in financing the Contra cause in Nicaragua. I don't remember if it was support for the Contras or feeling sorry for the wounded that cause me to buy a boatload of their masterpieces. In any case I figured I had something to sell once I was unemployed.

When one door closes another opens. I left Honduras and wound up in Panama, a country I know well. It was right after Noriega was booted and the economy was in a shambles. I set about working with the artisan groups selling their crafts at the US military bases. One day I thought... let's introduce the Contra Crosses along with molas and baskets. BINGO! I'm selling to US military folks who know very well what was going on in the Contra/Sandinista war.

I made a fair profit and many friends. Those Contra Crosses were wonderful icebreakers.


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.