Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Nicaragua


After a few days in northwestern Nicaragua (Somoto Canyon and Esteli), we made a beeline to the coast for some surf.  We stopped at a town called El Transito, and instead of surf, we found a really sketchy little fishing town with one very aggressive drunk. That night, we asked to park at a hotel and they told us it would be $5. In the morning the owner asked us for $15 more. There may have been a misunderstanding about using the bathrooms and shower, but I don't think we used $15 worth of water.  We left Transito with a bad taste in our mouth, to be sure.

We drove 6 hours south to a surf spot some friends had raved about called El Astillero.  Here, we stayed almost 2 weeks.  It's a beautiful location where not many tourists visit.  The neighbors of our hostel had a mom and dad cat with 3 kittens.  We stopped by to gawk at them everyday.

Mama-kitty with her orange and white kitten


El Astillero beach and surf point

Astillero is pretty close to Costa Rica, but because we wanted to cross the border on a Sunday, we backtracked a bit to visit Laguna de Apoyo.  It's a giant lake in the crater of an inactive volcano.  It's 1200 feet deep! I was happy to get my fresh-water swimming fix and enjoy the amazing views for a couple of days.

Good morning Laguna de Apoyo

During our time in Nicaragua, I read-up on some Nicaraguan history.  One thing I didn't need the books to tell me -- Nicaragua is poor. Outside of the few big cities, people live in huts built out of wood, mud, plastic, bamboo, etc. How does that feel during the rainy season?  There aren't many cars so people use ox/horse-drawn carts or public transportation. People cohabitate with their animals much more than any other Central American country. We saw pigs and chickens walking in and out of what appeared to be people's "houses".  When we visited the pretty colonial town of Granada, we were bombarded with sad, starving people begging us for money. We have experienced this in all countries (except Australia and New Zealand) but the scene in Granada felt more desperate and sad to me. Why is Nicaragua so poor?

Granada, Nicaragua. We camped at the town square without any problems.

Here is my dumbed down version of a few events that have greatly influenced present day Nicaragua: 43 years (1936–1979) of a corrupt U.S.-sponsored dictatorship that was passed down among family members. People who were pissed off about the resulting inequality, corruption, and starvation instigated a civil war.  The civil war caused massive damage to the country, but ended up with a democratically elected president from the opposition.  The new government was very left-leaning which pissed off the U.S. Therefore the U.S. withheld all aid to Nicaragua, would not trade with them, and funded those who opposed the government  (the "Contras"). In 1980, the U.S. congress forbade the government from continuing to fund the Contras. The government ignored the congressional mandate and secretly sold weapons to Iran to gain funds to divert to the Contras (Iran-Contra Affair).  In essence, Nicaragua spent 35 years of it's recent history bogged down with civil war and the U.S. opposition to it's government.  It's hard to fund education, health, and infrastructure when all of your resources are spent on war.

"Nicaraguans Are Dying To Be Saved From: A popular, democratically elected government, land for those who work it, illiteracy reduced from 52% to 12%, publicly debated constitution  night school for workers, subsidized housing, free health care, free child car, free medical training, political pluralism, paid maternity leave and job security, etc..."

The good news is that education and health care are more readily available now. Also, tourism has risen more than 70% in the last ten years. The country has stabilized politically and people are beginning to take notice of the stunning landscape and history of Nicaragua. We expect lots of changes by the time we pass back through.


2 comments:

Patricia Edgar said...

I am sitting in Granada right now as I read this, and my husband and I were discussing this yesterday. I was sad to learn that the average wage of a domestic employee is $5US a day! This is "great" for the many ex-pats who call this city home, but less then 1/2 of what my mother pays her cleaning ladies who come for 4 hours once a week. It saddens me that so many wealthy (at least compared to Nica standards) extranjeros take such advantage of the cheap labor, and seem happy about it.

Heather and Scott said...

Hey Patricia,
It is sad. Did you find yourself giving money to the begging people in Granada? I couldn't help myself from giving them money, and I know it's not the best way to do it, but how can I not? I didn't realize the incredibly low average wage of a domestic employee either. -Heather