What if they had built the Nicaragua canal instead of the Panama canal?
In brief, same as elsewhere, when Mexico had Emiliano Zapata and El Salvador Farabundo Martí, then Nicaragua had Augusto César Sandino (wiki), he was done away with like all the others. Heroes don't die in bed, Sandino in 1934. Sandino had fought US-Marines and conservative government (his seal was slaying a marine with a machete), the marines where here to protect the puppet governments of Adolfo Díaz with the goal to preventing a Nicaragua canal (wiki) as an alternative to the Panama canal (finished 1914).
Sandino lost it when after turning to spiritualism he fell out with major supporters and compatriots, though the marines left the country during the Great Depression Sandino was tricked and executed by the Nicaraguan National Guards headed up by Somoza García who staged a coup two years later (1936), the first of many Somozas to come who ruled the country in a hereditary dictatorship with support of the United States for almost half a century.
While the Somozas garnered an incredible wealth, even stole the relief funds for the 1972 Managua earthquake, most Nicaraguans remained extremely poor and disillusioned, Managua destroyed, it all gave rise to Sandinismo (wiki) and the founding of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), who eventually overthrew the so-far last Somoza regime (1979) and established a revolutionary government.
The civil war that followed was primary a result of the US financing, training, arming and advising the contras (wiki), and the Reagan-US was driven by cold-war fears of a Soviet beach-head in Central America. When its "white propaganda" didn't succeed in defying the public any longer and Congress stopped all money it turned to engaging in illegal drugs and arms trade for financing instead.
Before this background Christina and I enter Nicaragua. Yes, it is just another Central American country that only recently was able to leave its horrible past a little bit behind. Things are different though from El Salvador/Honduras, crime rates are lowest in the region, the security threats are gone, the honest smiles are back, my stress cramps from the race on the pan-americana à traverse Honduras fall off like a bad dream on a new dawning. Shortly after a red sunset we descend on a roadside restaurant, Agua Caliente, somewhere in the mountains, "aquí no pasa nada - nothing ever happens here", food is great, the beer I like is Victoria, Toña not so – at least initially. This is the 6th of January.
Next day we roll down to Leon, Sandinista capital, student town. Yes, we skip the mountains, this is the thing on a voyage, sometimes you move ahead, quickly, too quickly, for reasons beyond control, …
Leon is simply the best, a place for party at night and I eventually get hooked on Toña, a place to consolidate the fab back pages during the day. In ViaVia I spent most of my time, I like the old Latin rock they play, Argentinian Soda Stereo and others, watch the guys get exited about their billiard games when I glance over my computer, it's a place for all, locals, those Germans and French old farts that came a long time ago and stayed on, and - the usual backpacker crowd, the van is parked outside, C. and I sleep inside at night, no bad feelings bug me.
Volcanos and Beaches in Nicaragua.
One day we leave for La Penitas beach, so near, it is hot and the ocean violent, the setting sun great and the beers go down well at the place of the two old Americans. The old man hobbles about the beach, a cigarette in a corner of his mouth, he's collecting trash, the bag in one hand, a crutch in the other, the dog on a leach too, he needs a third hand, a forth for his cigarette. The dog's irritated by some other dog, he beats his dog with his crutch, then disgruntled leaves for home, I wonder what damage drugs can do!
Yes the fantastic place made us stay, despite their burgers earlier which were the true disgrace for the whole of the burger nation, plastic to the point of uneatable, it seems the old lady's oversight in the kitchen has been withering in the years. So much better the honest chili burritos along the road with a Canadian who too has seen Nicaragua for many years, "they'll also charge you for parking in their place". Damn right, the old lady would ask for 10USD, although we have been drinking in her bar all day. We park somewhere at the end of the road, in front of another restaurant/hostel "aquí no pasa nada".
Another day we walk across fields of teca/teak trees in heat and dust just before dusk towards San Cristobal volcano north east from Chinandega. There is no energy to go anywhere far, on return to the van we seek the ocean again and end up in the port town of Corinto. At the punta with a view on the lagoon is a restaurant, just no safe feel here, I have to tell a few hustlers off, one guy wants to sell me a whore despite - C.'s presence, we spent night back in Chinandega, in the parking of a restaurant where we discuss long over many beers.
Another day we drive towards the western end where volcano Cosigüina is, a low altitude bump in the landscape, a peninsular and on the other side is El Salvador where we drove around not even a week ago. Just we have on this particular hot and steamy day and with a hangover from Chinandega absolutely no interest in climbing it, instead drift down towards the ocean and find Nicaragua's widest and most unspoilt beach at the village of Mechapa. Two Americans own some seaside land on this marvelous beach, a resort surrounded by jungle, with red Pacific sunsets and gliding pelicans. With no other choice around we stay and if food was better I'd recommend the place, instead I wonder the effects of happiness pills.....
Disappointed about the nightly 'parking' charges, when you consume the full day overpriced food, we end up back in Leon 2 days later, the marvelous place on western edge of Nicaragua is spoilt, poisoned by greed. Back to Leon we take Jean-Luc and Fiona, an older French and Scottish couple from Paris that have seen the world and we enjoy their company for 2 nights in the row, talking travels over amazing food in some Belgian Restaurant and we pay less then in Mechapa.
Another day we set out and see Leon Viejo, the ruins of the former Leon till ~1600, near by volcano Momotombo, probably responsible for the site being abandoned by its residents, presides over a stormy lake Managua, Sunday has people come and drink and dance all afternoon.
Managua and Sandinismo and Christianity.
I Never Saw Managua When Miniskirts Were in Fashion. - Title of a jailhouse poem by Daniel Ortega.
In Nicaragua was always Granada, the elaborate, the city of beauty, favored by conservatives - and there was Leon, the one with substance and knowledge, the city of progressives and liberals and the conflict simmered on, became violent at times, between families and political factions. Then 1852 the compromise fell on the village Managua (wiki) as choice for a capital but it took the Managüenses years to get their act together. Their cathedral came by post in 1920, and the Christian God rejected it, sent the 1931 earthquake but it failed to destroy it, he then sent another in 1972 which bombed it into ruin. With 90% of Managua destroyed, the Somozas didn't not hesitate and plundered, it followed revolution, civil war and contras, all not permitting quick rejuvenation. When we come and see after so many years it seems better times are finally ahead; Managua, the bride of Xolotlán, that's the lake, will soon rise thanks to convert of recent, Daniel.
Daniel Ortega's life and transformation from Marxist-Leninist guerilla fighter to Christian Socialist, who managed to introduce constitutional changes that allowed him a 3rd presidency and avoid facing charges for rape … is an interesting read. 62% of the Nica voted for him in 2011 (wiki)
Carlos Fonseca is ideologically behind Sandinismo, founded it and split from the Communist Party 1960 (wiki).
Rigoberto López Pérez is a poet, (everyone is a poet) and national hero in Nicaragua for assassinating the first Somoza 1956, he died on the spot (wiki).
The Somozas go round in Managua again, Alvaro Somoza "... the airports were built by us. The ports were built by us. The roads were built by us." He doesn't mention how they suppressed and killed people and plundered the country, enriched themselves. (globalpost)
Masaya, the city is nice, the volcano is better, is special for its ease of access, and looking down a 'half' active crater and inhale its sulfur fumes teaches respect, or how beauty is formed by the inner Earth (wiki).
Sweet Nikon 17-35 f2.8 lense.
On Masaya it is the last time that I use it, later in Panama I would put it in the washing machine...
Granada and out.
Granada is for tourists, overrated, overpriced...
I feel no ease in Granada, it certainly doesn't feel as secure as Leon.
I get drunk in Granada, at night other drunks don't let me find sleep.
I eat bad pizza in Granada and it destroys my stomach.
I suffer for a few days while in San Juan del Sur, which is nice and some heavy rains make the rounds while I suffer and sleep it out.
I get some more work done.
Eventually we leave for further down the coast, El Ostional, where nobody goes anymore.
The next day on a bad camino along the border with Costa Rica, and the rains have turned it into slime, we have a puncture and we don't succeed all afternoon to unbolt the reserve tire, instead have us driven out to the pan-americana to Sapoa and the tire repaired and driven back. Past nightfall we enter Costa Rica and again a different world. This is evening the 22nd of Jan 2012.