Even as we flew above the capital Managua before touching down I knew it would be a wild place. From the air I could see piles of trash that must have been bigger than city blocks with people digging around looking for valuables and food. Roof tops were frequently rust color giving away that they were just pieces of tin thrown over some kind of frame for shelter most of the roads were dirt and not all that smooth looking and I even spotted several horses and even humans towing carriages with people in them. At the airport, we were immediately and impressively, met by an expeditor from the US embassy to help us through the immigration and customs process. They let me through, drums and all with no problems but our keyboardist John Hansen was searched for no apparent reason. Or maybe it was because his keyboard stand, before assembled looked kind of like a makeshift rifle or pipe bomb?
Before even leaving the airport someone from the embassy gave us a quick briefing and explained that during an earthquake in the late 70s the main part of the city was ruined and they just abandon it and build all around the “old city”. That would explain the chaos looking down from the air. The second poorest nation in the region next to Haiti the poverty rate in Nicaragua is at 48% of the population with an infant mortality rate of 27 per 1,000 compared to about 6 per 1,000 in the United States.
As we drove through the capital city to our hotel my camera was clicking away from our van. It was like going back in time 50-100 years. The wild west! Old cars, dirt roads mixed with some paved roads, tin shacks, horses towing carts, the streets were packed with people selling stuff like fruit, cashews, bagged water. Yes people were actually selling little plastic sandwich baggies of water and it was not very clear looking water either. People were gathered around fires build on the sides of the streets, dogs were running wild and kids were begging. Extreme poverty like I have never seen. This even made Brazil, which 31% live under the poverty line, look like New York’s upper east side. Ok , not really but it was noticeable. A particularly sickening moment was driving by a garbage dump type of area with crowds of people, fellow human beings, digging through the garbage. This is all in a country that has made progress since the civil war that ended in the 1990s.
After about 45 minutes of chaos we finally took a turn from the main drag and headed up a hill. The houses went from tin shacks to a bit nicer homes and finally to gated type residences. Definitely not decadent by any stretch of the imagination but what we might call a “middle class” hood with just enough funk mixed in to remind you of where you are and also to give things a bit of spice. We pulled up to our bed and breakfast ran by a more fortunate family; the gates opened and we pulled in. A beautiful colonial type estate with tile floors, nice woodwork, a pool, garden and outdoor sitting area with plenty of wooden rocking chairs to go around and about 12 modest rooms with complimentary wifi in most of the rooms which is a contrast to the $15 USD per night wireless we had in Panama. Our chief bed and breakfast host is very helpful cat named Hose. He spent quite a few years in Jersey while the Revolution was happening so he speaks great English and has a great knowledge of Managua as well. The people in Nicaragua seem very hospitable and would probably give a left arm for a fellow human. Cheers Jon Wikan