Everydays social life in Nicaragua

Nicaragua is one of the “youngest” countries in the world. About half the population is 15 and younger. Up until recently families had an average of five or six children, but the birth rate has declined strongly in recent years. Nicaraguans are used to assuming responsibility at an age when German children still play in a carefree fashion. Even though they mature at an early age, they enviably retain joy and vitality into their adult years. Every opportunity is used for a party. Birthdays are taken as an occasion to eat, drink and be merry and to dance – everyone dressed to the nines and women carefully made up. The guests often bring friends. They are welcome even if the family doesn’t know them.

Copyright Dr. Jürgen Steidinger

Copyright Dr. Jürgen Steidinger

Families often consist of several generations which live together on narrow space. If the children get married they attach a room to their parents’ house on their property and raise their children there. In such a large community everyone fulfils his/ her function: The women cook, look after the household and increasingly have to support their families due to increasing unemployment among men. Domestic chores and bringing up children are therefore often passed on to the older children. This is still the girls’ task Boys must support the family at an early age by taking on any kind of job: They work as street vendors and sell tortillas or beverages and they go shopping, help carry things etc.

Using the “Usted” form

In Nicaragua the normal “tú” is not used as is common in Spain. Instead one uses “Usted” in order to demonstrate respect; “vos” is similarly used for a friend. The second person plural, “vosotros”, barely exists; “ustedes” is used even if people are close friends but would like to express respect. Even dogs are paid respect: “!cállese!”

The Inter “Mortales”

What is the fasted way to get to the capital? The interlocal. This is the name for the Korean minibuses which connect the larger cities. They are built to seat five rows at three people each, and you hold your luggage in your lap. You pay C$ 40 (2 €) for a trip from León to Managua. There is no faster way. The buses leave as soon as 14 passengers have boarded. And they will gather fast, with shouts for “Manawa, Manawa” which is to say Managua. The gatherers will swarm out over the whole bus depot in order to get the passengers away from the large cross-country buses. If you are unsure which form of transportation to choose, the gatherers will grab your luggage and manoeuvre you into the narrow seats relentlessly. Once you’re in there is no easy way out of the tight container. But you will have food and drink on hand, supplied by the street vendors milling around the vehicle selling combs, water, newspapers and food from coffee shops. The trip starts once the “cobrador” (cash collector) has your money. The first part of the trip is in the traffic stream of the city until you reach the highway. This is where the fun starts. There will be some faster cars and you will pass an interlocal every now and then. Despite the considerable weight of 15 persons the drivers punish their dented minibuses and make them the fastest means of transportation on the highway.

© 2011 An article by Gerd Schuman