I have been caught quite off guard this month here in Granada. Overnight, a spark has ignited a grassroots, political movement in the streets of Nicaragua that grows more powerful every day. This widespread campaign now gives voice to not only issues of political discontent, but also to the outrage over the violent, political repression that was orchestrated by the State to attempt to quiet and squash it.
I have wanted to write a post for a few weeks now about what is happening in Nicaragua, but it wasn’t clear to me what exactly was occurring and where it was all heading. For perhaps a decade, Nicaragua’s opposition in any form has been largely subdued and hushed by fear. It was wondered by all of us watching these events if demonstrators would continue to protest daily, or perhaps wait for the national elections in three years to quietly change their political leadership at the ballot box.
It now seems to me that Nicaragua has reached a tipping point in this movement that will only cease when the presidential couple is forced to leave office. Meaning, this is the real deal. I believe that this is full on democratic activism that will see a popular revolution through until its climatic moment when the ‘powers that were’ are compelled to step down by civil pressure, if not by force.
I could not be happier for Nicaragua. For years, Nicaragua has politically become less free and just, which in its own way detracts from the natural beauty of its land and unique way of life. Although the manifestations have created an immediate stagnation in the economy and in the tourism industry, it seems from talking with locals that many are ready to hunker down to take a hit for the team. They now have a sense of their own growing numbers and personal power as a group and feel that they can utilize this momentum to achieve their objectives.
What does this mean for travelers planning a trip to Nicaragua?
The political situation here is becoming more meaningfully unpredictable every day in ways that affect everyone who lives and visits here. Daily protests against the Ortega government now include critical roadblocks that require nationals and residents to become more strategic about the day-to-day and long terms decisions that they make.
The main highways have been barricaded by cement blocks, burning tires and semi-trucks which have made it largely impossible for free movement to occur between cities for not only average people but also for commercial products, including at times fuel for motorists. Granada now often lacks consistent access to Managua, Masaya, Laguna de Apoyo, and the southern and northern border (at Rivas and Esteli). These impasses could be lifted and reapplied at any time. It is an ongoing developing situation.
There are many new players on the scene. Some of them are inspirational additions to the national dialogue such as the thousands of students in Managua who have shown endless courage in leading a civil disruption to call attention to the negligent destruction of the Indio Maiz Biological Reserve and the surprise reforms to the social security system that is the bread basket to many Nicaraguan families.
Other sectors of society have appeared recently that are not welcomed.
There are now paid paramilitary groups of youth sponsored by the government to cause terror and incite violence within the demonstrations. Other groups of ruffians act in the dead of night, hooded and armed with stones and bats seeking to loot and shake down motorists for money. The police force have controversially used extreme violence leading to scores of deaths as well as illegal detainment against its own citizens for which it will have to account for in the coming days.
The important point that I want to make in this post is that this is not the right time for families with children to visit.
I feel a responsibility to warn travelers about the current situation although that may sadly affect my own community here in Granada that largely earns their living through international tourism. My son and I are staying here through this process because this is our home and I truly love Nicaragua and Nicaraguans and want to walk through this period of change with them. I would not recommend travel to families that do not know the country well, or do not speak Spanish well, or have a low threshold for stress and situations of uncertainty. You may be able to manage a good holiday, yes. But there is also much that can go sideways on you.
I do think that this unsure time will pass and probably quickly and there will be more than just a return to the status quo….Nicaragua will be even more beautiful at the end of this process with its democratic credentials well exercised. I could not predict today when the current situation will normalize. Next week? This summer? I assure you that nobody knows.
Nicaragua will be soon back again better than ever as the perfect place for your family’s reconnect in tropical paradise. And furthermore, it will need all the support that tourism lends to rebuilding an economy and hard currency reserves. Not only will your family trip immerse you in one of the world’s most beautiful natural terrains, but you will also help support the growth of a proud, democratic nation that valiantly defended its right to fairly direct its own destiny.
I will be thrilled to post again when it is the right time to journey here in the land of lakes and volcanoes for you and your family. In the meantime, feel free to send me a message if you need more specific information to help you make your travel decision.