We arrived in Nicaragua on April 9th, 2018. On April 18th, we got news that President Ortega had put into law a new social security reform which would negatively affect the entire population. The students took to the streets to protest, and in what would become the historical beginning to this crazy civil war that they have now entered, over 70 people were killed, mostly students, and many more hundreds were injured, around the country. On May 10th, we began a housesitting job in Rivas. Things had calmed down a bit, and we felt right in our decision to stay in the country. The violence had’t reached where we were, we really felt like it would stay calm. Day by day we watched as things escalated around us. We started to feel trapped. Roadblocks made travelling impossible and we weren’t sure if it was even safe to go anywhere. Maybe it is best where we are, we thought. On May 30th, a peaceful Mother’s Day March took place in Managua, the capital of the country. Estimates of 200 000 people took to the street to show solidarity and a will to make a point, to tell Ortega they wanted him out. They marched to remember their children that had already been lost in this bloody war. They were thousands upon thousands strong, mostly waving the Blue and White striped flag of Nicaragua. It was a sight to behold and I felt a surge of pride for the country and what it was representing. We read the following morning that late in the day, Snipers located high off the ground, started shooting into the crowd. That day they killed upwards of 15 people and injured hundreds more. One boy was shot right from his mother’s arms. On Mother’s Day. This was the turning point for us. This unspeakable and despicable act is what forced us from the country. Because you realize that if a person is capable of that, he is capable of anything. This is our story of 8 weeks in Nicaragua, when a civil war broke out.
To start with part one of this story, please click here.
Our first few days on our own, in the house we were housesitting at, were spent hanging out in our Nicaragua neighbourhood. It was fun to meet the neighbours and explore the streets around our house. Having already lived in the city for a couple weeks, we had our favourite spots to visit at the market, we shopped from vendors in the park and pretty much had our lay of the land figured out.
The National Dialogue, or commonly known as ‘the talks’, was ordered by the priests and was set to begin on May 16th. The residents of the country, and the visitors alike, seemed to be waiting with baited breath for this to begin.
Surely something would be sorted out, and all of this bloodshed and violence could be put behind us. Couldn’t it?
On May 16th, the students, the church and the government met to begin a dialogue to move forward. The message from the students was clear, Ortega was to step down immediately. A young Lesther Alleman, a University student, took the charge and declared directly to Ortega that the country, the people, wanted him to step down. He insisted that there was no other way to move forward. (Please see articles here and here.)
Ortega had likely never been spoken to like that, and certainly not from a young person like Lesther Alleman. He immediately became a national hero, the voice of the people. Watching the videos brought goosebumps to my skin and I felt like in some way, despite it only coming from one young man, the people had spoken. Indeed at this time, I had read that upward of 70% of the country was not happy with Ortega’s direction and where he was leading the country. Surely Ortega would listen, surely he would understand that he is not liked, not wanted, not appreciated.
Nothing was solved at ‘the talks’ that day, Ortega insisted that he didn’t know who was killing people, he said that he had ordered the Police to break up protests with non-violent tactics. He also insisted that the only thing wrecking the country at that time was the road blocks and that they should be lifted immediately to try and recoup the lost economy that had happened since their beginnings.
He didn’t apologize for anything. He didn’t accept responsibility for anything.
The talks were finished that day and it was declared that further talks would begin in two days.
That night, the following occurred according to the Havana Times:
Proof of Ortega’s intransigent stance is the fact that on the same day of the installation of the dialogue, on Wednesday, his paramilitaries attacked the Cathedral of Jinotega in the night, where students protesting against the regime were given refuge. And on Thursday the attacks continued at the Polytechnic University of Nicaragua (Upoli), where a 16-year-old boy died; and in Masaya, the siege and looting of shops continued on the part of the mobs launched by the Ortega regime.
It’s impossible to report on all of these sorts of activities as this was the normal run of events. We heard of students living in the Universities, using them as some sort of bunker. We heard of them being poisoned by rations that they had coming in. We heard of all sorts of atrocities that were being committed, all the while Ortega declaring that he was not directing it and that he had nothing to do with it. In fact his wife (also Vice President) declared that those protesting were the vermin of society, further enraging the students .
On day 2 of ‘the talks’, they began with Ortega’s representatives showing up in his place. Word travelled fast that he hadn’t even shown up. Apparently he didn’t want to be talked to like that again. Memes flooded the internet about him being a chicken, and not manning up to his position. However, it turns out, that him and his sidekick did attend, but much later then they were supposed to. By then, most of ‘the talks’ had been completed by his cohorts. But, yet again, it seemed, nothing was solved and nothing decided on.
Ortega wasn’t going anywhere.
Violence continued in the streets, Tranques (road blocks) were erected, the students were mobilizing, and they were becoming more organized and more determined by the minute.
However, all was still tranquillo in Rivas. We had seen no road blocks in our area, supplies were getting in, there was no violence, no bloodshed. We felt like we were living in an alternative reality. It was hard to comprehend that so much craziness was going on in the rest of the country, when we felt completely safe and normal where we were.
However, we were also keenly aware that things weren’t normal, and that we, ourselves, were also becoming a rare thing in Nicaragua. At that point, the travellers had mostly ceased to exist and this became very apparent to us when we took a walk to San Jorge one day.
San Jorge is located 5 km from where we were living. It is the gateway to Ometepe Island, one of the main tourist attractions in the country. Ometepe is an island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America. It is composed of 2 volcanoes which are popular for tourists to hike and climb on. It is a beautiful island, but it too had been blocked by roadblocks over the last couple weeks. We heard that these road blocks were actually in retaliation to gas prices that had gone up. But I’m sure it’s all related, and the bottom line is that nobody was travelling to Ometepe anymore, let alone the rest of the country.
As we arrived to the beach where the ferry dock was, and where restaurants, normally hustling and bustling with travellers, lined the ocean front, there was nobody. Not one tourist was in sight, let alone barely any Nicaraguans. We walked along the beach and finally got waved into one of the restaurants where we were the only people in the place. We sat in disbelief as we drank our Tona’s (local beer) and stared out at the spectacular view in front of us. I think this is when it really started to hit home. This is when we realized how few of us were still in the country.
Maybe this is when we started to get a little more worried then we had been before.
On May 23rd, I started to write some thoughts down about how I was feeling about the situation. Day by day we heard horrific reports of terrible human rights violations. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) had visited the country and had declared that awful human rights violations were occurring. (This article came out June 1st, but it states many of the same things that the IACHR had declared when they initiated their investigation.) Things were not getting better, but we still had not seen any violence or felt unsafe at all. In fact, the more we left our house, and walked the streets, the more we were reassured that all was just fine. Why would we leave this place when we were still having such a positive experience.
Here is what I wrote on May 23rd:
Today we hear this news:
Starting today at 6:00 am, it has been declared by the Campesino Leader, Francisca Ramirez, That road blocks along the Pacific Coast will become permanent.
What does this mean to us? What does all of this craziness mean?
The truth is, we aren’t sure either.
It has been a day to day following of events around here for the last month, tying to decipher what really is going on, vs what we are reading online.
My emotions run the gamut from completely freaked out and thinking that we are over the top CRAZY for still being here, but I also have days where we walk into town, the people are friendly, life is normal and business is as usual.
Our own Canadian government website has stated that we should avoid unessential travel to Nicaragua. But somehow that seems unjustified. I can’t explain the feelings that we are going through, at times it doesn’t even make sense to us, but we feel like we need to be here right now. We feel comfortable, and settled, and mostly at peace with what is going on around us.
Are we burying our heads in the ground? Are we purposefully rationalizing what is going on around us, so that we feel justified in staying? I really don’t know. But I do know this. Until we personally feel like we are in an unsafe situation, we aren’t leaving this place.
I’m sure there are thousands of people out there that think we are fools for staying. And believe me, I have been there. THIS is not a place I would choose to visit. I would never purposefully travel to a country with any sort of drama or unrest happening.
But yet here we are. Here we sit. Waiting and watching to see what unfolds. Trying to focus on the day to day and not some point in the future. We are dealing with this as we have dealt with every other challenge that we have had in regard to plans or planning of any kind, each day we make a decision of what we are going to do that day, and that is all.
We have focused really hard on this trip to not contrive our future too much. I mean, it’s one thing to book a housesitting gig at a far off point, just to secure accommodation of some sort moving forward. But mostly we are living in the moment. We are taking the time we need to focus on what is important to us. To work on our online businesses and to carve out our niche in this world of Digital Nomadism.
So far we have kept a low profile in Nicaragua. So far we haven’t felt threatened in any way. So far the people are amazing. So far we love our neighbourhood. So far we really have no complaints.
So why fix what’s not broken? When we move into a different phase of emotions, we will act on that. That is it, that is all.
We had heard reports that a roadblock was set to begin in Rivas around that time. We were concerned about what this would mean to our tranquil little corner of the country, but until we felt like we were in danger, we obviously weren’t going anywhere.
To be continued………
Disclaimer: The information provided in my writing is based on articles that I have read from many publications, information gathered from Nicaraguan Expats and Locals, and from videos that I have seen posted online. I don’t pretend to be an expert on Nicaraguan politics, and if you feel like I have misrepresented information in anyway, please email me at email@example.com.
For news on what is happening in Nicaragua and to learn all about this crisis, please visit the La Prensa or 100% Noticias websites. Their online newspapers have covered this from the beginning and continue to do so.
After selling all of our possessions in Canada in 2017, we flew to Costa Rica to do an initial housesit for 2 months. Our journey has continued and we have now been ‘on the road’ for just over 8 months.
Current Location: We are currently in Samara, Costa Rica where we are staying in a familiar hostel with others that left Nicaragua around the same time that we did.
Travelling Plans: Depending on whether or not we get some work here painting another mural, we will be headed up to Mexico at some point. But nothing is set in stone yet.
To head back to the beginning of our journey, and the moment we decided to sell all of our posessions to trave the world, click here.
To see more travelling photos, and to follow our progress on Facebook, please follow our Facebook page Just Some Wandering.
Please follow my Instagram Page Just Some Wandering by clicking on the bottom right hand corner of this feed.
To learn about where I have previously traveled, visit my Countries Page.
To see all of my blog post headings on one page, head over to my Blog Post Menu.
To email me directly, please do so anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you like my writing, and want to follow along on our journey, please put your email address in the right hand column to subscribe. That way all of my posts will go straight to your email inbox:)