Nicaragua you have always intrigued me. Your fiery reputation highlights your mystery. Relatively discreet on the international scene, La República de Nicaragua has much to offer on a cultural perspective. Always seeking new wild adventures, I was willing to set aside my predilections and biases and was on my way to Managua, Nicaragua.
Bienvenidos a Nicaragua
Hola señorita yelled the driver of the white pickup truck. It was 4 am in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, and we were going throughout the jungle towards the Nicaraguan border like narcos. Manuel, our driver, spoke with the thickest Spanish accent possible, probably assuming that I was from a nearby pueblo. Manuel didn’t seem to be concerned with traffic regulations and drove on the wrong side of the road half the time.
Hundreds of trucks were in line, waiting patiently to cross the border. We reached the first checkpoint and noticed a massive makeshift camp where stationed Ghanian immigrants with the desire to reach the other side. Further ahead, men dressed as El Chapo tried to sell their foreign currencies. They were showing off their brand new leather jacket and million-peso smile.
Six checkpoints later, I lost track of time and became spontaneously fluent in Spanish. From a distance, I could get a glimpse of the Nicaraguan flag. Military men with loaded machine guns formed the local “welcoming committee.”
Do you hear me, do you feel me? We’re going to be alright.
Wasting no time, we headed to Masaya volcano, one of Nicaragua’s most active volcanoes. Once I got on site, the laxity of political leaders became apparent. The crater of the volcano was merely protected with a thin cord, the one often used for macrame projects at kindergarten. I contemplated the lava and thought instinctively, “What if I drop my iPhone? Will AppleCare believe my story?”
The smell of roasted beef caught my attention, as my stomach was growling and begging for something consistent to eat. A 10-pound prime piece of beef con papas waved at me, I couldn’t resist. The waitress handed the bill with a smirk on her face. I read 10 million pesos and panicked; Manuel whispered in my ear, “Relax Mamacita es solamente 5 dollars.”
We exit through Roberto Huembes market like conquistadors looking for authentic treasures. Natives rushed toward me yelling, “Rihanna, Rihanna.” For a quick second, I wondered if I could endorse this role and have Manuel perform as my bodyguard. I feared to be exposed and simply responded, “Lo siento no soy Rihanna, soy su hermana.” I couldn’t help it.
La Ciudad de Granada
The city of Granada reflects its ancestral heritage and will make you travel in the past from the Iberian culture to the Amerindian sounds and flavors.
Manuel was determined to bring me back to life after noticing that I was half asleep during the visits. He demanded his compañeros to bring an extravagant horse carriage, visibly from another era. Horses were dressed as quiceñeras with colored ribbons on their forehead.
The charming colonial features of Granada brought me back in the 18 century. Cars went missing from the landscape (it could also be one of these eco-friendly campaigns “In town, without my car!”). Fashion differed from our Western norms; women tied their hair with ribbons and flowers wearing colorful dresses.
Above water in Isletas de Granada
Manuel insisted on showing me where Narco Traficantes, tax evaders, and political leaders took residency. We embarked in a modest wooden boat surrounded by crocodiles and other unknown species. As we left the shoreline, the sailor calmy stated as if he was a scientist, “Don’t you worry Mamacita, crocodiles sleep tight during the day.” Why don’t you dip your hand in the water so we can verify this statement?
We navigated around small islands filled with luxurious homes and greeted monkey families as tourists would do. The scenery was a sharp contrast with the slums outside the city of Granada.
The sun gradually fell behind the horizon; it was time to head back to Tamarindo, Costa Rica. This brief journey to Nicaragua allowed me to overcome its unfortunate reputation and get a better understanding of the cultural aspects and values. Assuredly a step back in time, but a step in the right direction.
Tourist’s favorite market in Managua and mine too. Anything you secretly dreamed of is finally accessible: python bracelets, liquor filled with insects that enhances your sexual performances, crocodile “Hermes like” bags, flutes (looking for a professional retraining plan? I got you covered).
Calle La Calzada
A must for chocolate aficionados. Located in a colonial building, the museum invites you to explore a world filled with peace and harmony.
Dive in the chocolate fountain (it’s a metaphor, don’t get me in trouble), taste moderately chocolate bars and get delicacies for your loved ones. Or maybe just for yourself.