The magnetic attraction so many travelers have to a particular place usually is due in part to the friendliness of the people. And Nicaragua is no exception. This country has captured my heart. It’s partly due to the genuine and deep smiles that magically spreads across the faces of so many Nicaraguans. It’s not a half smile that feels trite or customary or polite. This is the essence of the Nicaraguan people or Nicaraguense.
In this jewel of a country that is still raw and unscathed by hoards of tourists, it is common to observe a sincere warmth and contentment that is unique and admirable given the lack of material wealth. The colonial of streets of Granada pulsate with energy and nonstop bustling activity. There are vivacious markets with the necessary items such as shoes and food and simple luxury items such as dried crimson hibiscus flowers for tea and exotic deeply colored spices. On the sidewalk, big cauldrons sit propped up on a makeshift stove, steaming with the daily “almuerzo” for a mere 25 cents. Vendors are busy on the corner selling giant papayas and juicy watermelon. Colorful buses zoom through the packed streets where bicyclists, horse pulled carts, and school kids decked out in blue and white uniforms all share the road. The houses are painted brilliant colors that infuse a day-glow mood throughout the city.
It’s a delight to pass by a family sitting out on the sidewalk during the afternoon siesta and watch them all look up with curiosity and a warm smile. The smiles and laughter of the people here seem to emanate from a place deep inside most likely due to the tight social connections within a culture that places high regard for family and friends. A highly significant expression in Nicaragua contains the word “compadrazago” which literally means co-paternity and refers to the extended family bond. This bond is evident along the streets and in the homes between blood relatives and customary godparents as well as between co-workers and friends. And luckily, as I observed, after several short conversations with both individuals and families, it transcends outwards to strangers.