Perhaps my one favorite place in Managua was La Casa de los Mejia Godoy. This unique establishment was the best place to visit and understand the revolutionary mood of Nicaraguan people. La Casa de los Mejia Godoy was a restaurant bar that had live music on weekends. The food was good, the prices were fair, and the music was superb! The owners, Carlos and Luis Enrique Mejia Godoy are some of the most popular singers and authors of Nicaraguan music alive. Carlos is a living legend, who thrives on stage when he sings Nicaraguan testimonial songs. Most of the songs are his, he is the author. He sings of the trials and tribulations of Nicaraguan people and their efforts to rid themselves of Anastasio Somoza, a dictator whose family had run Nicaragua for several decades.[themify_hr color=”light-gray” width=”1″ border_width=”1″]
During one of my trips to Managua a few years ago, I visited La Casa de Los Mejia Godoy. It was across the street from the Crown Plaza Managua Hotel and Convention Center. I made a reservation, and took a couple of Nica friends with me. I must say that I got goosebumps listening to Carlos Mejia Godoy sing about the Nica Revolution. The passion, the excitement, made me understand the roots of modern Nicaragua much better. Despite the fact that I grew up in Mexico and live in Honduras, I would have never fully understood Nicaragua without this visit.
Back Again to La Casa de los Mejia Godoy!
A few years after my first visit, I ran into a couple of friends from Honduras who were in Managua. They were there for the Nicaragua trade show, and I almost twisted their arms to accompany me. Sonia Regalado from MesoAmerica Travel in San Pedro Sula and Gilberto Arita of Mayan Caribbean Tours, also from San Pedro Sula was reluctant to accompany us. He insisted he was capitalist to the bone and had no interest in listening to revolutionary songs. He slowly changed his mind and got really excited when Carlos Mejia Godoy sang Quincho Barrilete. This song won an OTI Award and was extremely popular with kids throughout Central America. By the time the show finished he was so happy we went, that he decided to add a visit to offer the experience to the tourists he took to Nicaragua.
It is with deep regret that I found out that La Casa de los Mejia Godoy closed its doors in June 2018. The crisis that took place after the April 2018 protests took a huge toll on many businesses that relied on Tourists. In addition, it seems like the Mejia Godoy brothers decided to move to Miami, in an auto-imposed exile to protest the current government of Nicaragua. You see, they are Sandinistas to the bone, but that does not mean the agree with the current administration.
In the end, Nicaragua is the one that has lost most. This was a house of culture. It will be difficult to replicate the experience that I had while visiting La Casa de los Mejia Godoy. Today, I got a picture of what was once the site of this unique business. I was heartbroken for Nicaragua and thankful that I had an opportunity to live an experience there.[themify_hr color=”light-gray” width=”1″ border_width=”1″]
Today, July 19, 2019, Nicaragua celebrated another year as a “free” country. The fascist government of Anastasio Somoza fell in 1979 after a bloody civil war. So today marks the 40th anniversary of the revolution. The 19th of July is probably the most important historical holiday and celebration in Nicaragua. As a matter of fact, I dare say that there is more excitement and political fervor that on September 15th when Nicaragua celebrates its independence!
Despite the social unrest that shook Nicaragua during the last year, the reality is that most Nicaraguans profess to be Sandinistas. It is a political attitude that runs in their blood. All Nicaragua Citizens under the age of 40 are proud of the revolutionary heritage they have. Most of those that are 60 or older fought with the Sandinista Revolutionary Army to free Nicaragua from Somoza. The fact is that the Sandinista Revolution Celebration unites Nicaraguans of all ages and social status.
This year was no different, and Managua had its streets literally bursting with Nica citizens celebrating. Of course, every other important city and town in Nicaragua also had their own Sandinista Revolution Celebration. But the main event is always in Managua, the Capital city and the center of politics in the country. The people are not celebrating a political party or a specific government. They are celebrating a new way of life, where there is more opportunities for all citizens of Nicaragua. They are celebrating their victory over a foreign country that was behind Somoza till the end.
Ironically, Sandino never fought in the Revolution. He had been an active guerrilla warrior against the USA invading army and the Somoza Regime. Sandino was murdered by the Somoza Regime but always served as an inspiration to follow. Happy Sandinista Revolution Celebration to all Nicaragua!
If there is one topic that comes up during any conversation in Nicaragua, it is the Nicaragua Inter-Oceanic Canal. Half the population believes in this dream, the other half thinks it never will happen. This is a centuries old dream, and most Nica’s would love to see it happen. However, others oppose it with passion!
Few Nicaraguans have ever been to the Caribbean Coast. Thus, most have no real clue of what the reality is there. I decided to go out exploring the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua and see for myself what the reality is all about. It’s easy to understand why so few Nica’s have never gone out this way. For one, it is hard to get to. The area that is earmarked for the Canal Project is south of Bluefields. This is the largest community in this part of Nicaragua.
Getting to Bluefields to Start Exploring the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua
There are two ways to get to Bluefields. The first, and easiest is to take a flight with La Costena Airlines from Managua direct to Bluefields. Flying time? Just over an hour. The route is scenic, flying over the northern end of Lake Nicaragua, then across the grasslands of Chontales. You can see the agricultural frontier expanding into the forests of the RAAS as you are getting closer to Bluefields. The second alternative is to take a bus from Managua to El Rama, and then a boat down the Rio Escondido to Bluefields. This option will take a full day of travel.
I have traveled both alternatives. My suggestion is take the second option if you have the time. It is a matter of time before a road is open to Bluefields. When that happens the River Port at El Rama will die. This is an experience that you will soon not be able to enjoy.
Make sure you leave Managua as early as possible. The Trip to El Rama takes about 6 hours from Managua. Some travelers prefer to do the trip overnight, arriving in El Rama at around 3:30 a.m. This way, they can catch the first panga at 6:00 a.m. There are many different fast boats always ready for departure at El Rama. Boats leave whenever they are full, and this is an ongoing process. There is only one glitch: Navigating the Rio Escondido is a day light trip. This means that the last boats leave el Rama by 3:00 p.m. If you arrive afterwards, you will need to spend the night in El Rama. If you end up having to spend the night, Hotel Costa Verde and Hotel Rio Escondido are your best bets.
The trip down the river will take you through jungle clad river banks. After almost 2 hours, you will find yourself in the Bay of Bluefields. This is a rather shallow bay that has restrictions to the size of vessels because it is depths. Because of this the actual port, called El Bluff, is actually at the entrance to the bay. The Panga trip from el Rama to Bluefields takes about 2 hours. The cost will be roughly $10 US dollars or its equivalent in cordobas.
As a port, El Bluff is actually quite limited, because there are no roads that lead to or from it! This means that all goods that arrive here must be transferred by smaller boats to Bluefields. Again, there is no highway from Bluefields to the rest of Nicaragua. As such, El Bluff is a small local port that is home to the largest fishing fleet in Nicaragua. If you on your way to the Corn Islands, take note that it is easier to catch a ride in the cargo boats that leave from El Bluff. Travel between Bluefields and El Bluff is quite easy, as there are always boats coming and going.
Meeting the Rama Kriol Autonomous Government
Upon arrival to Bluefields, I needed to secure myself a room. There are many different hotels available in town. I had an appointment set up with the Rama Kriol Autonomous Government for the next morning. So after checking into the Hotel Caribbean Dream I set out to explore town. My mission was to find the exact location where my meeting was to take place the next day.
The meeting with the authorities at the Rama Kriol autonomous government was most interesting. You see, it turns out that about 1500 Rama Indians, and 2000 Kriol African Americans are the legal and rightful owners of a huge expanse of land that runs parallel to the Caribbean Coast. Their land goes from just south of Bluefields all the way to the border with Nicaragua along the San Juan River.
The different alternate routes for the Nicaragua Canal are all between Bluefields and Graytown. This means that the route will cut the Rama Kriol Territory in half! In general, the community is against the project. They are fighting a legal battle with the government of Nicaragua. But that is a different story…
The Route I Followed Exploring the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua: From Bluefields to Monkey Point
They agreed to take me south, on a boat along the Caribbean Sea to the Community of Ban Ku Kuk. This community is just south of Monkey Point, the best location on the Caribbean Coast for a seaport. So after making the proper arrangements, we agreed to leave early the next morning. As a general rule, the surf tends to get rougher as the day progresses. This means that an early departure guarantees a smoother ride!
It was a beautiful morning in Bluefields. As the fog lifted over the Bay of Bluefields I boarded our speedboat. We went across the lagoon, into the Caribbean and due south. A dark blue sky and no surf at all, allowed us to make fast progress. We were in Ban Ku Kuk in less than 1 ½ hours! The current plan for the canal calls for the entrance to be south of Ban Ku Kuk, in the Punta Gorda area. The project includes a paved highway to Ban Ku Kuk as part of the infrastructure needed.
Ban Ku Kuk is a small village on the coast. They do not even have a dock, so you must jump of the boat and get your feet wet to disembark! The community has no power, no telephone communication, and no medical facilities. It does have a small dilapidated school though. A land trail interconnects it with Monkey Point, due North. You can also follow another path to the south to mouth of Punta Gorda, where you will need a boat to cross the river.
One thing was clear to me: the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua is not developed. There is little or no government presence in the area. The people living in this area, which could be a piece of paradise, have been on their own for centuries. The Rama Indians and Kriols that live here have maintained their basic subsistence throughout the years by living in harmony with nature. If the Canal is built, their world, as they have known it for generations will change forever.
I will not get into the discussion of whether the canal would be good for them or not. In the end it is up to them to decide. Change will be massive and irreversible if it does happen. It is hard to imagine any alternative to the lives of these people. The Caribbean Beaches are beautiful, and there are plenty of small islands and Cays along the coast, these do not boast the barrier reefs that are present in the Bay Islands of Honduras. Devolepment of the area via tourism is a far cry from today’s reality.
I am lucky that I had the chance to visit Monkey Point and Ban Ku Kuk before construction begins. Unfortunately, there is no real place to stay in either community. Ban Ku Kuk has a multi service community building that offers some extremely basic rooms. The facility does not have a fan, in building bathrooms and of course, electricity.
Monkey Point has a bit more infrastructure, because there is a fishing facility there. They also have a small dock and a building used as a restaurant. Electric Power, needed to keep the freezers running for the fishery, means that the community has power during certain hours of the day. A small, basic hotel operates from time to time. But you never know if it will be open or closed. The cays nearby are pretty, but with a limited reef surrounding them. And although the beaches are nice, they are not spectacular.
Perhaps the canal could in a way help preserve some of the Rama Kriol territory, especially the area to the south, known as Indio Maiz Reserve. If you are really adventuresome, and are willing to spend some money to get to see this area, make sure you bring good camping equipment. Of course, credit cards and ATM machines are not useful items in this part of the world, so make sure you bring lots of cash.
Keep in mind that traveling on the Caribbean in a speed boat can get pretty rough. The entrance into the rivers mouths from the sea can be a harrowing and dangerous experience if the surf is up. You will need a good captain that is familiar with the area! Unless you are looking to interact with the Rama – Kriol people of Nicaragua, you are best sticking with a trip to the beautiful Corn Islands of Nicaragua.
Nicaragua’s civic calendar has its most important celebration on the 19 of July. You see, this is a holiday in remembrance of the Sandinista Revolution that toppled the Somoza Regime.
Anastasio Somoza was the third member of a family dynasty that had been in power in Nicaragua since 1936. Throughout this period, the family had ruled with an iron fist. They had also amassed a fortune making Somoza one of the richest men in Latin America. By the time the 1970’s came around, the cold war was in full swing. Central America was fertile ground for the communists. Thus the US bolstered their support in the region, creating an air force base in Honduras. Honduras was their most reliable USA ally in the region. Somoza in Nicaragua was also an important ally. After the 1972 earthquake in Nicaragua, discontent was on the rise. Somoza and his national guard responded with force to any manifestation.
The local population took inspiration from national hero, Augusto Sandino. Sandino was a Nicaragua national who fought against the US intervention in Nicaragua during the 1920s, and 1930s. Anastasio Somoza Sr. ordered the cold blooded assasination of Sandino. This took place after meeting with him at the presidential palace. Tales of Sandino took epic proportions after his death. These tales served as inspiration in the revolt against Somoza.
By 1979, it was evident to the USA that Somoza was not worth supporting. After loosing his support from the USA, he left the country on the 17th of July. After his departure, the revolutionary army marched into the last strong hold: Managua. A new government was set up, under the command of the revolutionary army. General Daniel Ortega assumed the lead role in the new government. Thus the 19th of July, Nicaragua celebrates its liberation from Somoza. This date is a second independence celebration for Nicaragua. In many ways, it is even more important than the independence day celebration that takes place on September 15!
The times that followed were even harder that the days of the revolution. For the United States, loosing Nicaragua was only second to the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion to Cuba. Under the leadership of Ronald Reagan, the US launched an offensive against the Sandinistas. Using Honduras as a launch pad, the USA provided training and guns to the Contra’s. The result was a full blown civil war that was fierce and ruthless. For the USA, it was not about Nicaragua, it was about being superior to the USSR. Nicaragua was the unfortunate battleground between these two World powers.
Nicaragua today is a democratic country, with elections taking place every 5 years. The Sandinistas are back in power after losing to the Liberal Party for three consecutive elections.
Sandino, did not fight in this revolution, but functioned as a source of inspiration. To this day, Augusto Sandino is a inspires every Nica! Congratulations to Nicaragua on this day! He is also the most outstanding figure in Nicaragua History!
As for Somoza, after leaving Nicaragua he went into exile to Paraguay. There his fellow dictator, Hugo Stroesner welcomed him. Paraguayan revolutionaries staged an attack and murdered him. They blew up his bullet proof Mercedes Limosine with a Bazooka. That was the end of him!
There are not many live héroes that fought the Sandinista Revolution. In addition to Sandino, who was the inspiration, Carlos Fonseca and Tomas Borge are some of the best known heroes of this revolution. Fonseca was murdered by the National Guard, Borge died of natural causes a couple of years ago.
The remote Caribbean coast of Nicaragua is home to the Rama Indians. This is a small ethnic group that lives in a territory between the Bay of Bluefields and the San Juan River. There are only about 3500 ethnic Rama’s left. Most of them live on a small cay in the middle of the shallow bay of Bluefields. The Rama Indians of Nicaragua coexist with the Creole population in the same area. They both use English as their mother tongue.
Together they own and govern a large piece of land known as the Rama Creole Territory. The territory includes all the land from the southern half of the Bay of Bluefields to the San Juan River. When this territory was titled to the community, there was little interest in it. Yet, the proposed Nicaragua Inter Oceanic Canal has changed perspectives. Today, the land is very valuable, as the Canal will have to cut through this territory at some point.
The Rama Indian Communities
Although the largest community is in Rama Cay, there are other important communities. Most of them are on the Coast. Monkey Point and Ban Ku Kuk are two examples. Others are right on rivers. Such is the case of Tik Tik Kanu, Corn River, and Indian River. Together, these six communities are the core of the Rama Indians in Nicaragua.
The only way to get to The Rama Creole territory is by boat. It is and is thus quite inaccessible. I had the opportunity to make a flash trip to the area, which I am happy to share! My starting point was Bluefields. There I met with the Rama Creol territorial government leaders. We planned our trip planned the day before. We agreed to meet at a dock at 6:00 a.m. for an early departure. When traveling in the ocean, the earlier you leave, the smoother your ride will be! We planned our trip to visit four rama communities: Ban Ku Kuk, Monkey Point, Tik Tik Kanu and Rama Cay. After fueling our “panga” we were ready to go! We had a glorious day at sea, clear skies, smooth sea with virtually no swells.
The Rama Communities on the Caribbean Coast
Our first stop, the community of Baan Ku Kuk, which translated means Eagle Wings. This is a small community right on the coast. A nice beach and a rolling hill where most of the homes are behind the beach. Although the beach is nice, there is nothing much to see. A nice set of cays is just off the coast. Roughly between this community and Monkey Point. These Cays offer great coral reefs to dive and snorkel. Unfortunately, there is nowhere to rent equipment here. A playful group of kids that were enjoying the beach met us upon arrival. One of them was using an old ice cooler top as a surf board! Amazing how poor kids in the middle of nowhere always find something to turn into a toy![themify_hr color=”light-gray” width=”1px”]
Next on our trip was Monkey Point. Despite much talk about a port facility here, the village is small. Development is almost null. A small fishing facility to refrigerate their fishing catch before they take it to the markets in Bluefields is the only modern facility here! A century ago there was an attempt to build a railroad and port here. Some old railroad wheels are all that is left of this effort. The rest of the steel was scrapped and used to build whatever they could. Monkey Point offers beautiful beaches, close access to reefs and outstanding views from high bluffs overlooking the Caribbean. But total lack of infrastructure is the main deterrent for development.[themify_hr color=”light-gray” width=”1px”]
Rama Cay, the largest Rama Indian Community in the World
Back in Bluefields Bay, the most interesting site was Rama Cay. This community was originally established in two small cays that were near to each other. Over the years, the space between the two cays was filled in and is now used as a soccer or baseball field. Today there is only one bigger cay. The Rama Indians are Christian. They were evangelized many years ago by the Moravian Church. Thus, the only religious temple on Rama Cay is the Moravian Church.
There are schools and facilities here. However, most of the agriculture and cattle raising take place back on the mainland. There are communal plots in land around the bay. There is not much do to or see in Rama Cay. Despite this, I wholeheartedly encourage a trip to the small island during your time in Bluefields. Don’t expect to spend more than two or three hours here. The pastor at the church is a good source of information. If need be, accommodations can be arranged at the communal center. Take care of your goods and documents though! There are members of the community that have a habit to get into other persons things. Keep your cash and jewelry with you at all times!
Concerns About Long Term Subsistence of the Rama Indians of Nicaragua
The Rama people are friendly. There is concern about their long term subsistence as an ethnic group. Their reduced size, and the encroachment into their territory are a big threat. The biggest threat, is without doubt, the construction of the Nicaragua Canal through their land.
Nicaragua has a variety of protected areas that are under the administration of the Ministry of Environment (Marena). They are administrated by the office of National Parks (SINAP for Sistema Nacional de Areas Protegidas) There are 71 protected areas in Nicaragua. The Cosiguina Peninsula was the first area to reach that status. This was back in 1958. It was given the status of Wildlife Refuge.
Since then, the national park system slowly grew into its current number of 71 protected areas. The largest of these areas are the Biosphere Reserves. Nicaragua boasts 3 of these reserves: the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve located in the RAAN (North Atlantic Autonomous Region); the Indio Maiz Biosphere Reserve in the RAAS (South Atlantic Autonomous Region) and the department of Rio San Juan. Last but not least, and definitely the new kid in the block, the Ometepe Biosphere Reserve. The Ometepe Biosphere Reserve was established in 201o. The whole Island of Ometepe is part of this reserve.
The National Park System has several different titles to the areas. This indicates the specific protected status. The status includes Biosphere Reserves, Nature Reserves, National Parks, National Monuments, Nature Reserve and Wildlife Refuge.
The most visited protected areas in Nicaragua are the Parque Nacional Volcan de Masaya. It is halfways between Managua and Granada. Therefore only 20 km (12 miles) from either of these cities. The other area with a high visitation is the Mombacho National Park. This is very close to Granada and easily within 90 minutes from Managua. Both of these have an extensive trail system and professional guides to give you a tour of the area.
Most of Nicaragua’s protected land is in the Caribbean side of the country; however there are also several outstanding protected areas within the northern central area of the country, which is the most mountainous region of Nicaragua.
Although Nicaragua is a relatively small country, there are several very distinct weather patterns that affect the climate here. For weather purposes, it is good to divide the country in three distinct sections, the Pacific lowlands, the Atlantic lowlands and the northern highlands.
The Pacific, which is the most densely populated region of the country, is directly affected by the weather that spawns off the Pacific. Fortunately for Nicaragua, its geographic location makes it almost impossible for an Eastern Pacific hurricane to affect it, as these are rarely spawned south of the Gulf of Fonseca, which is the northernmost land that Nicaragua has on the Pacific. In this area, the rainy season usually begins in May and lasts until early September, and the dry season is between October and April. Although always warm, the hottest months are February, March and April, which mark the end of the dry season. Typically the humidity in the Pacific area is quite low, whereas it is usually very humid on the Caribbean side of Nicaragua.
The Northern Highlands usually have the same pattern of wet and dry months as the Pacific, However the weather is usually quite cooler due to the higher altitudes for most of these towns. As such, the departments of Esteli, Nueva Segovia, Madriz, and Matagalpa are usually several degrees cooler that those in the Pacific, like Chinandega, Leon, Managua, Carazo, Granada, Masaya and Rivas.
The Caribbean Lowlands, basically the land east of Lake Nicaragua is more influenced by weather formed in the Caribbean Sea. Here the rainy season is usually later then that on the Pacific, with the rainy months starting more towards July and August and continuing as late as January of the next year, with February through June being the dryer months. This is because of two reasons, first because the Western Caribbean hurricane season begins August and ends in November, and then because the Caribbean is subject to the influence of cold fronts coming down from the north. In any case, the inter tropical convergence zone directly affects all of Nicaragua and weather can be somewhat unstable. Historically, there are very few hurricanes that affect the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua; however there have been some cases these have caused much damage to life and infrastructure. In recent years, the worst case was that of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 that devastated Honduras and did a lot of damage on the Pacific side of Nicaragua due to massive amounts of rain.
The Nicaragua Canal, a Life Long Dream of Nicaragua!
The concept of a canal in Nicaragua has been going on for almost five centuries. The Spaniards first arrived in Central America in the XVIth century. They soon discovered the vast Lake Cocibolca, or Nicaragua. They learned from the natives that it had a draining point at its south eastern corner. Immediately, they became enthralled with the idea of a route that would connect both oceans. Expeditions were sent to investigate. Soon they found that the San Juan River was navigable all the way between Lake Nicaragua and the Caribbean Sea. With Lake Nicaragua also being also navigable, they struggled, unsuccessfully, to find an outlet from the lake to the Pacific Ocean. The narrowest section between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific Ocean is through the isthmus of Rivas, and is only about 12 miles wide.
The pre-Colombian indigenous cultures knew of the river and its interconnection between both bodies of water. Yet, it was not until 1539, when under the command of captains Calero and Machuca, that the route was officially “discovered”. The above mentioned Spaniards led an expedition down Lake Nicaragua to the Caribbean Coast. This opened a trading route, that permitted trade between Granada and the rest of the Caribbean Spanish colonies.
It turns out that Lake Nicaragua, which has an altitude of 31 meters (about 100 feet) above sea level, drains out towards the Caribbean Sea through the San Juan River. The river takes almost 200 km (120 miles) to reach the sea, which means that the flow of water is gentle and steady due to the very small gradient between both bodies of water. Furthermore, the steady flow of water is ensured, due to the huge body of water that forms the lake, avoiding the need of building dams, and practically eliminating the need for locks to raise or lower vessels during their transit.
Cornelius Vanderbilt officially created the transit route as a commercial shipping route to transfer the individuals that were attracted to the West Coast of the USA during the California Gold Rush. In the days before the transcontinental railroad was finished in the USA, connecting the Pacific Coast to the rest of the USA, it was cheaper, faster and safer to use the transit route which involved travelling from New York or New Orleans to the Caribbean port of Greytown, at the mouth of the San Juan River, and then on a steamboat up the San Juan River to Lake Nicaragua, across the lake to the port of La Virgen, on the Western shores of the lake, and then over land the 12 or so miles to the port of San Juan del Sur, where they would board their steamships north towards California.
In order to establish and truly control this lucrative commercial route, Vanderbilt commissioned William Walker to look after his interests in Nicaragua. Walker became an important part of Nicaraguan history when he overthrew the Nicaraguan president, and proclaimed himself President of Nicaragua. Once in control, he decided to take possession of the transit route, and therefore lost the support of Vanderbilt. The Central American states, saw Walker as a threat to their own security. Thus, they decided to help Nicaragua get rid of Walker. By invading the country, they forced Walker to flee Nicaragua. He was eventually captured and put before a firing squad in Trujillo, on the Caribbean Coast of Honduras.
During this period of time, Costa Rica, who had seized the southern province of Guanacaste from Nicaragua during the war against Walker, demanded that Nicaragua cede the territory to them as payment for their efforts to help them expel Walker. Nicaragua was not in a position to go to war with Costa Rica after having been devastated by the civil war against Walker, and was forced to give in, signing a treaty that has been called the Jerez Cañas Treaty. Under this treaty, which was signed on the 15th of April, 1858, Nicaragua renounced its rights to the province of Guanacaste; however, in exchange, received a few benefits.
First, it ensures that its border with Costa Rica is pushed a few miles from the shores of Lake Nicaragua. By doing so, it retains complete sovereignty over the Lake. It was also agreed upon that the border that was marked by the San Juan River was acknowledged by Costa Rica as being “their” side of the river, and not the river itself; by achieving this, Nicaragua has complete control of the river, since the river is completely within its border! Furthermore, the treaty states that Nicaragua has the right to build any infrastructure on both sides of the river should it decide to build a canal in the future. As can be seen, Don Maximo Jerez, who represented Nicaragua in the signing of the treaty, was a man of vision, and should (in my personal opinion) be considered a national hero in Nicaragua!
Costa Rica has tried to renege on this treaty a couple of times, the first important effort was in 1888 when both countries requested that the president of the USA, Grover Cleveland hand an arbitral award regarding the disputes. On this occasion, President Cleveland upheld the treaty that had been signed by Jerez and Cañas in 1958, officially putting end to a 30 year dispute by Costa Rica.
More recently, Costa Rica sued Nicaragua in the international court at Le Hague arguing that its rights were being hampered when Nicaragua would not allow armed Costa Rican police to patrol the River. In a historic sentence, the court declared that Nicaragua had exclusive sovereignty over the river and confirmed Nicaragua the rights it acquired when they signed the treaty in 1858!
Such being the case, Nicaragua happens to be sitting on a truly privileged geographic location, with an almost perfect setting to build a true inter-oceanic Nicaragua canal that would probably only need locks on the section between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific Ocean. After the court at The Hague ratified Nicaragua’s control over the San Juan River, the government of Nicaragua, led by President Daniel Ortega has officially set out to look for international investors that would be interested in a partnership with the government of Nicaragua to build such a canal. It is evident that such an investment would not only be a good business, but also a tremendous boost to the Nicaraguan economy.
Surfing in Nicaragua has become a major attraction for visiting tourists. Its privileged location on the Pacific coast and the proximity of Lake Nicaragua to the Pacific Coast, has a major effect on the quality of waves for surfing. The offshore winds that are spawned by Lake Nicaragua combine with the surf coming in from the Pacific. This creates large barrel waves that break slowly and create world class surfing waves. In addition, a variety of very affordable surf lodges and hostels along several villages in the Pacific coast make of Nicaragua the most affordable surfing destination in the World.
The quality of surfing in Nicaragua is such that the World Masters Surf Championship took place there last year. Master surfers from around the world joined on the beaches of Tola. The mission: to challenge the surf and see who was best at it. The event was a total success, with President Daniel Ortega and Minister of Tourism Mario Salinas being present at the inaugural event and sending a clear message that Nicaragua is ready for Tourism and that the government means business when it talks about the potential for tourism in Nicaragua.[themify_hr color=”light-gray” width=”1px”]
Best Surfing Locations in Nicaragua
The most popular spot for surfing in Nicaragua is probably San Juan del Sur. Here you will find a variety of different lodges and facilities that cater to the surfing market. San Juan del Sur offers a nice combination of good surfing plus an outstanding all around destination with good hotels and restaurants as well as some of the best nightlife on the entire coast in Nicaragua.[themify_hr color=”light-gray” width=”1px”]
In addition, the beaches of Tola are also fantastic, and considered by many as the best in Nicaragua for surfers. Here the small fishing village at Playa El Gigante has turned into a full fledged surfing village. You you can stay cheaply in a hammock and have an informal lunch on the beach. Best of all are the ice cold beers at funky bars right on the beach. It is no longer a secret, some of the best surfing in the World at very affordable prices is right here, in Nicaragua!
Have you Heard About the Nicaragua Fresh Water Sharks?
As a kid, my dad used to tell me the story about the fresh water sharks that lived in Nicaragua, and how these where the only fresh water sharks in the world! This was almost 50 years ago, and mankind did not really know much about marine life, sharks included. Thanks to the interest spawned by Jacques Cousteau, that marine scientist that we all loved to watch on the TV as kids, we have learned and understood a lot about marine life and sharks in particular. So, is the myth about Nicaragua fresh water sharks true or not you will ask?
Well… it sort of is true! Yes sharks to do swim in the waters of Lake Nicaragua, and although their numbers have dwindled over the years, there is plenty of scientific evidence that they in fact live and thrive in this huge freshwater lake. However, it turns out that the Nicaragua fresh water sharks are not actually a different species of sharks, but rather good old bull sharks that swim up the mighty San Juan River and end up in Lake Nicaragua!
Modern studies have found that sharks and other salt water fishes and mammals actually do swim up rivers. They do so in search for calmer conditions and less competition for food. Bull sharks have been reported in the Orinoco and Amazon Rivers in South America. The same can be said for the Papaloapan River in Mexico. But why do you not find these sharks in rivers such as the Mississippi in the USA or the rivers in Europe? Well, the answer is easy, sharks thrive in the warm waters of the Caribbean. They require similar temperature in the rivers, the tropical rivers of Mexico, Central America and South America offer ideal conditions. The rivers further north offer water that is usually the result of snow melt and is therefore downright cold!
The reason that these sharks are found only in Lake Nicaragua is actually quite simple. The San Juan River connects the lake to the Caribbean Sea. The river traverses about 220 km from the outlet in Lake Nicaragua, which is only 30 meters above sea level, to the delta in the Caribbean. The current is slow and offers a steady flow of water. This means that sharks can actually navigate these 200 plus kilometers up the river into the lake! Over the years, the San Juan River delta has become clogged with sediment. This has made the passage between the Caribbean and the River rather hazardous for the sharks to navigate in. This, together with over fishing, has generated a sharp decline in the number of Nicaragua fresh water sharks.
Perhaps the most famous of American writers, Samuel Langhorne Clemens navigated the Transit Route over 150 years ago! Better know as Mark Twain, the author was in Nicaragua for a few days and wrote about his passage through the country in his book Travels with Mr. Brown. The story of Mark Twain in Nicaragua is […]
Perhaps my one favorite place in Managua was La Casa de los Mejia Godoy. This unique establishment was the best place to visit and understand the revolutionary mood of Nicaraguan people. La Casa de los Mejia Godoy was a restaurant bar that had live music on weekends. The food was good, the prices were fair, […]
Today, July 19, 2019, Nicaragua celebrated another year as a “free” country. The fascist government of Anastasio Somoza fell in 1979 after a bloody civil war. So today marks the 40th anniversary of the revolution. The 19th of July is probably the most important historical holiday and celebration in Nicaragua. As a matter of fact, […]
157 years ago, Central America was struggling to build its future. After 300 years under Spanish Rule, it had gained its independence by accident, when “New Spain” declared its freedom from Spain. New Spain (Mexico) was a vast territory that went as far south as the border between Costa Rica and Panama. To the north, […]
Hurrican Otto, a unique and rare meteorology event is about to unfold along the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. In over 150 years of records, there has never been a Hurricane to make a direct hit in this area.
Few Nicaraguans have ever been to the Caribbean Coast. Thus, have no real clue of what the reality is there. I decided to go out exploring the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua and see for myself what it is all about.