Life In Nicaragua
by Susan Lagos, March 8, 2017
My husband Walter and I have been living in Dario, Nicaragua since 2004, when I retired from teaching Spanish, and my mother passed away. Walter grew up on a ranch in western Nicaragua, so he is devoted to his cows, although feeding them has been hard work these last three years of drought. He grows corn, sorghum and Taiwan grass to chop up, and rents pastures, since our finca is only 15 acres. We also raise pigs, ducks, turkeys, pelibuey sheep, chickens, and 4 horses, as well as the dogs and cats. He is installing irrigation systems to save water. His sons Julio (just married at 23) and Walter Junior (almost 25) have been working with him and the manager. We sell milk, fresh cheese, eggs, piglets, ducks, etc. Nicaraguan country chicken soup with their version of dumplings and vegetables adapts well to duck, and is deliciosa. Our finca is about 10 kil. or 15 minutes from our house in Dario.
Since my back no longer likes lifting and bending much, I do some of the cooking and cleaning. No more picking lemons, oranges and tangerines to sell since the trees died in the drought. I also have been participating in local govt. Recently the fiestas for the 150th anniversary of Ruben Dario's birth (our very famous poet born here, father of modernismo) entertained us for a week with election of the Muse (10 young women who declaimed his poetry --that is memorized with voice inflections and hand gestures -- and answered questions about his life and work, and wore Greek type dresses, competed with family and friends rooting them on.) We also had baile folclorico performances, singing contests, children’s games, parades, a visit by the National Assembly, art exhibits, & a cake contest for a week.
Here in Nicaragua we had elections 2 days before the US, and Daniel Ortega won a third term, with his wife Rosario Murillo as VP this time, with 70+% of the votes. His government has made great strides in infrastructure, education, and public health, and in case you haven’t noticed, those Central American refugees arriving in the US are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, where gangs, violence and corruption cause so much trouble, but none are leaving from Nicaragua for those reasons. We are a very safe country, where no one wants war, since during the revolution against the US supported dictator Somoza ending in 1979, and the contra war funded by Ronald Reagan and the CIA in the 80's left 120,000 dead.
By law here, HALF of public offices must be filled by women, in the National Assembly, local govt, and department level, so if the mayor is a man, the vice-mayor must be a woman, etc. And there are several parties, but as long as they are legal and have at least 5% of the vote, they are represented appropriately in the Assembly by their percentage. So people like me that voted for Dr. Jill Stein would not be unrepresented here just because they didn't vote for one of the main 2 parties. Rosario Murillo has been working overtime for years as the National Coordinator on women's and children's issues, land title issues, cultural and tourism issues, youth and community development issues, etc. so she is definitely not just a figurehead.
As for freedom of the press, the opposition La Prensa newspaper weekly has caricatures of Daniel as el Bachi (he never finished the Univ because of the revolution, therefore only has a HS degree or bachillerato), and Rosario as la Chamuca or witch, perhaps because she dresses like an aged hippie, colorful with rings on every finger. They have renovated Managua, which was destroyed by the 1972 earthquake, so that now after 40+ years, there are no more half destroyed buildings downtown, everyone has been getting their home or land titles legalized, and the lake front instead of a huge garbage dump called la Chureca, has a shiny recycling center employing lots of the people who earlier dug through the trash. We also have the Salvador Allende Park on Lake Managua, with restaurants and entertainment for families.
Public health care has much improved, and I have several neighbors who have had knee, back, eye, etc. operations for free. My dermatologist, optometrist, general practitioner, and acupuncturist were trained in Cuba. Hospitals and clinics are much better equipped. Pregnant women in the countryside can stay in town at the Casa Materna for free before their due date, when they are taken to the hospital for free in the ambulance and treated for free. People with chronic conditions like heart disease or diabetes receive their weekly medicine and checkup for free. Our electricity coverage is up to 90% of rural areas, when with the opposition government (1990-2006) it was under 50%. Now over 50% of our electricity comes from wind, solar and geothermal sources. Education at all levels is more accessible everywhere, not just in the city.
So any of you interested in visiting us, we have lots of natural beauty to show you, as well as colonial cities, 13 volcanoes, 2 big lakes, and great beaches. When it’s cold up north, we are having 70 degree weather. Nicaraguans are hospitable and just learning how to share their country with tourists. My son Dan from Sacramento in July fit in whitewater rafting, Somoto Canyon, the beach, and climbing Maderas Volcano on Ometepe in a week's vacation.