When asked why foreigners immigrate to Nicaragua, often they say, I just want to feel free, like never before. My response is usually, Free from what? Does Nicaragua offer more freedom than we can obtain in our home countries? If so, what are those freedoms and are there restrictions to our freedom while living in Nicaragua?
I’m reminded of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s song, Free Bird. It is a metaphor for life. “Things just couldn’t be the same. ‘Cause I’m as free as a bird now,” the group sings. Life happens whether we want it to or not. Since life passes so quickly, I figured that I might as well jump right into the thick of it…take calculated risks…live my dreams…change and grow. I couldn’t handle staying where things were always the same day after day. Life seemed to be passing me by, and I needed a change where I could spread my wings and fly. Nicaragua gave me that change.
What freedoms do we have in Nicaragua?
Some expat business owners say that they have more freedom to conduct business in Nicaragua. I assume that means there isn’t as much bureaucracy. Others interpret freedom to mean less financial stress and less work. For me, now that we are retired, freedom = lifetime pensions. We can live comfortably on a fixed income in Nicaragua.
As expats, we express our freedom in many creative ways. We are artists, builders, writers, chefs, teachers, and photographers. We cherish our freedom and our rights to free speech. We defend our home countries, and pack our traditions, values, cultures, and symbols of freedom to display in our adopted country.
This photo, posted with William’s permission, piqued my curiosity. Below it, in all caps, was the word “FREEDOM”. It was posted on July 4th in Granada, Nicaragua. I found it amusing that although the Confederate flag flew proudly over an expat bar, not one Nicaraguan understood the symbolism or even cared. When I asked a local friend if he knew what the Confederate flag represented he said, “No, and we really don’t care.”
“Well, what if a rainbow flag flew over the expat bar?” I asked.
“We do understand what that flag means, but you North Americans are too sensitive,” he laughed.
However, freedom comes with restrictions for an expat in living in Nicaragua. We may be free to express our political viewpoints about our home countries, to fly our symbolic flags, to discuss and argue issues from our home countries on social media forums, but we do not have the freedom to become involved with or discuss political issues that affect Nicaragua.
Expats with residency may not become involved in political organizations nor promote any acts against the cultural, ethnic, religious, or tourism image of Nicaragua. And if you are wondering… Yes, people have been asked to leave the country for these reasons.
Read about Casey’s experience in an immigration detention center in Managua. In his book on NCX Guide to Residency in Nicaragua (which launches on August 1st), he writes:
You can still get deported
So don’t run for political office, take part in protests against the government or do anything that might possibly be considered a threat to the state. Trust me! Immigration jail is no fun.
“If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?” The opening line to Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd poses the question we all ask at one time or another. Living in Nicaragua, I have learned that with freedom comes compromise. Yes. I can soar like a free bird here. Yes. I live a simpler, more carefree lifestyle.
Free Bird or Jail Bird?
People often interpret the Free Bird song to mean leaving something behind. Leaving things behind is a part of life for an expat. There are points in our lives where things change, and we can’t go back to the way things were. Although we are free birds in many ways, our lives always involve compromise, especially in freedom.
What does freedom mean to you?