Caucasian in Nicaragua. The Access & The Tax

While in Nicaragua the general attitude towards Caucasian people is you must be rich or what else are you doing here? I expect this in most developing nations but when it comes to day-to-day interactions I noticed both pros and cons.

Now, I need to write a disclaimer. Nicaraguans in general are very friendly and out-going. The people that I met and worked with were so welcoming I cannot say enough great things about them.

So as stated above the general consensus is: Caucasian = money.

 

The biggest pro is the access. Now you can pretty much walk in to any restaurant, any club, hotel or establishment and be very welcomed. Not only welcome but, especially in the clubs, be taken to the most VIP area. This happened to me every time I went to Hipaa Hipaa (the premiere club in Managua and one of the best places to visit in Nicaragua if you want to party) as well as Moods (another great and very popular club in Managua) Bartenders look for you right away to take your drink order. Though, I imagine this doesn’t sit well with the locals waiting for their drinks. Yet, to get in, it somehow cost me twice the admission as my local friends. I didn’t notice a difference in the cost of beer but this is pretty much how it works in most less formal transactions. Now, I’m not a club guy by any means. In fact, I never listen to that kind of music or usually have fun in that type of atmosphere. I’m a pub and live music kind of guy. But this is part of their culture, and Latin Americans know how to party at a club.

After sometime at one of these clubs I decide I’ve had enough to leave early looking for a Taxi. Now I know my hotel is about an 8 minute drive from this club. Here is a taxi tip for Nicaragua and many other places. Decide on the fair BEFORE getting in the cab. This is done in many other places but is an important rule. I tell him where I’m staying and ask him “cuánto Americanos?” The taxi driver replies “diez Americanos” 10 bucks?…. really guy… I just walk away. He yells back something a little lower, I then tell him I’ve give him 1 dollar (which is still over paying) to take me there and he appears insulted. Like because I’m Caucasian I should be okay with being ripped off? I should just accept that I pay more and in fact realize I’m doing a good thing by paying more for someone in more need than I. Now I’m somewhat insulted too. But I remind myself of where I am, how their cultural views growing up of North Americans shape their attitude. I offer him two dollars American (to put it in a term, that’s still about a 125% markup from a local) and I get my ride back to the hotel.

In another instance, myself and two other people I worked with hired a driver from the Hotel to take us to a few of the local sites. These sites will be covered in other post but the last of which was the Opoyo Lagoon. The Apoyo Lagoon is actually a volcano’s crater. It was formed approx. 20,000+ years ago, after a strong explosion left a six kilometer (diameter) hole. Time decided to fill the crater with water and the surrounding area became covered with vegetation. While it has been stable for a very long time some volcanic activity is seen via the hot springs close by. We came upon a resort which gave a magnificent view of the lagoon. We ordered some food for us and our guide, though he was hesitant to eat with us. During the meal, one of the people I was with asked our guide if he ever took his kids here. I was a little embarrassed for him and my co-workers. I just don’t think my co-workers realized that we were in a privileged area. our guide politely said “no, he never has”. While I don’t speak Spanish, I noticed the body language and tone of the banter between our guide and a security guard with the resort. It was not difficult to tell that we were the bargaining chip to get through the gates. It ended with all of us sitting in hammocks for a while, staring out at the lagoon as day light grew smaller. It was a very nice resort. Not a beach resort like you will find on the coast but still a great value with a nice relaxing view.

After writing this, I guess it’s no different from anywhere else, you look the part and spend more… you go more places and get more. Though, I’m not exactly comfortable with this type of inequality I wanted to keep exploring Nicaragua.

2 Responses to Caucasian in Nicaragua. The Access & The Tax

  1. Very interesting to read your impressions vs mine. I’m Canadian too, a woman and blonde, and have traveled solo to Nicaragua twice. I never felt threatened or taken advantage of, but I also got out of Managua as soon as possible both times. I’ve gone from Managua to Leon to San Juan del Sur to Granada by mini bus and chicken bus, stayed in hostels and gone out with locals to play Nica pool … I mean I knew that it was the deal that I paid for the drinks because I was the Gringo, but seriously at a $1 a beer, who’s to argue. Frankly the most impressive moments of honesty I encountered were on the bus where you pass your fare up the line of passengers to the bus manager and he gives your change back in the same way. Never did I pay more than anyone else, and I always got the right amount of change back. Next time you go, get out of Managua as fast as possible, then travel as slowly as possible to get a feel for the rest of the country. The last thing… I saw those volcano boards, and I’m a snowboarder, and decided the last thing I needed was two broken ankles in Central America! So I opted for the toboggan version — just as easy to fall off… and I’ve got the arm scars to prove it!! But a total blast I never regret (I’ve done it twice!) See you on the Gringo trail, amigo!

    Catherine April 24, 2014 at 9:45 pm Reply
    • Thank you SO much for the comment Cathrine!

      I had to stay in Managua as I was also there for work. I got out as much as possible though. I got a few scrapes but nothing serious. Atleast with scares you can tell them it’s from ripping down an active volcano, lol. It was hella fun though!

      I share your fancy for slowing down when traveling. I think it had more impact on me since it was my first time outside of Canada/US.

      Shaun April 25, 2014 at 10:20 am Reply

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