Pondering Progress in Nicaragua

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt

Economic growth is one of the main factors in determining the progress of a country and its potential to satisfy the wants of individuals in their society. I am convinced Nicaragua has made significant progress in utilizing their abundance of natural resources to produce more efficient wind and solar energy. Technological development has played a role in Nicaragua to connect the population to the outside world through fiber optic internet cables. Ometepe Island public parks now have free wi-fi access due to a fiber optic cable strung under the lake from the mainland.

Yet, I wonder if all progress and advancements I see in Nicaragua truly benefit the majority of the people living below the poverty line. Are we adding to the abundance of the minority of Nicaraguans who have so much, and are we providing enough to the majority who have so little?

Last week I traveled to Managua for my regular check-up with my eye doctor. Arriving at the port in San Jorge, I noticed a new ferry, a desperately needed ferry because many people on Ometepe Island must travel to the mainland daily for work. This progress benefits everyone. And I have seen much growth in transportation with new airports, shuttles, taxis, and lots of cute tuk tuks that buzz around newly constructed roads like little mosquitoes.
The San Jorge port had a magnificent facelift. Restaurants, vendors, hotels, and major work on the sea walls benefits everyone, too.

But, never has  progress been more evident than in Managua! We drove on a new bypass road, circling the most heavily trafficked areas. It now takes us one and a half hours to reach Managua instead of the two or two and a half hours.  And when entering Managua, we are confronted with these ostentatious and extravagant electric trees. Daniel Ortega’s wife, who is now the Vice President of Nicaragua, thought this was progress I guess.

Real trees were cut down to make room for these costly and horrid looking electric trees. I heard that each tree cost $20,000, not to mention the electricity it takes to run these monstrosities at night. Most Nicaraguans will tell you they are feo! Do these trees demonstrate economic growth for the majority of the Nicaraguan people? Is this progress?
I always enjoy going to the big Sinsa hardware store in Managua. The last time I was there, I bought a toaster. I was thrilled with my purchase because it was the first time I found a toaster in Nicaragua. I will admit that I have an appliance addiction. This time, I bought a juicer, but I was shocked upon entering the store.

It is September and they had the store decorated for Christmas! September! Really? Now, I can forgive them because they don’t celebrate Halloween and it generally isn’t a traditional holiday in Nicaragua, although it is becoming more popular with the U.S. expats who live in Nicaragua.
But, I was dismayed when looking at the beautiful displays for two reasons. First, all the prices were in U.S. dollars. It is the first time that I noticed all the prices in dollars. At first I thought the Christmas trees and decorations were cheap. 1,049 cordobas for a huge decorated artificial tree was a bargain at $35. I asked the clerk and he said the prices were now in dollars.

How many Nicaraguans can afford $1049 for an artificial Christmas tree? The average monthly salary for Nicaraguans is between $150-$300 a month. Is this progress? And exactly who buys these trees and Christmas decorations? It appears to me that Sinsa caters to the wealthy minority.
The second thing that bothers me is the lack of Nicaraguan Christmas traditions in these displays. How many Nicaraguans have seen snow, ice skates, and snowmen? Has Nicaragua sold its traditions for capitalistic displays of meaningless excess?

I was not overjoyed at the Nicaraguan vision of progress displayed in Managua. Social factors play a crucial role in the economic growth of a country. Social factors involve customs, traditions, values and beliefs, which contribute to the growth of an economy to a considerable extent.

Walking into Sinsa was like walking into a mall in the U.S. at Christmas. I hope Nicaragua doesn’t lose its sense of direction in catering to the minority of wealthy people because they stand to lose so much more.

Thoughtful, sustainable progress is possible in developing countries and I have seen good progress in Nicaragua in the decade in which I have lived here. But, the needs of the majority of the people should always take precedence over the surreal displays of wealth and vanity.

What does progress mean to you?


19 thoughts on “Pondering Progress in Nicaragua

  1. I remember seeing your opening quote by FDR etched into rock at his memorial in Washington DC when we visited there last fall and reflecting on what a beautifully said and true statement it is. You can’t help but applaud Nicaragua’s progress. In fact, we read recently that it had joined the Paris Climate Agreement too, so kudos all around! There will always be the greedy rich but the more vulnerable of Nicaragua really are seeing their fortunes improve, little by little. Hoping for a quick recovery on your 3rd eye operation and meantime, you and I can enjoy our kitchen appliance finds! (Funny how a toaster and a slow-cooker are suddenly treasures, isn’t it?) Anita

    • The progress Nicaragua has made in a decade + that we have lived here is astounding. I only hope their priorities are in the best interest of the majority of the people. And thanks, Anita. My third eye operation was successful. I can see perfectly long distance. Now, I on,y need to decide whether to get reading glasses or bifocals with clear glass above. It has been a long journey, but worth it.

  2. Electric trees = oh my my my! The photo that shows the ‘carcass stump’ of what was surely a lovely tree – that contrasts with that electric one – it’s pretty graphic illustration of what’s going wrong instead of right. I wonder – on a hot day, how much comfort will that electric tree provide / not only to pedestrians but also to parked cars….

    I’m with you on how fast a culture can lose what makes it special; it was always nice to note that Christmas – in many countries – remained a religious holiday, with little attention on lights or trees or – gasp, the gifts that filled the negative space beneath those trees… Wouldn’t it be great to roll back the years and rejoice when the old-fashioned lifestyle was a comfort to all…..

    • Yes, Lisa, it would be great to roll back the years in some situations. I am so torn. Progress is a double edged sword. The good thing about living on a mainly agricultural island is that the progress we see truly benefits all the people. There is something to be said about country living. It is simple and true. Hugs to you mi amiga. ❤️

  3. As congress begins another attempt at dismantling Obama’s health care, it illustrates in live colors what “progress” is all about. More for the few and a lot less for the needy majority. This capitalist notion exerts an overwhelming force field felt on the growing economies south of the border. So strong that it deforms cultural values of vulnerable societies. This is the notion of us-style capitalism embraced by the so called “protector of the majory” leadership. Nothing to do with the wellbeing of the majority. And history repeats.

    I will not express my sadness for the atrocious ecological disaster of the lighted metal structures in managua. Truly a misguided use of a poor society’s limited resources.

    Hope your eye is healing nicely. See you soon.

    • “Deforms cultural values of vulnerable societies” …That is exactly what I was trying to say! Thank you, Ernesto! You hit the nail on the head!
      I am headed to Managua tomorrow for my third and final eye surgery! Hopefully, after this simple cataract and lens replacement surgery on my good eye, I will be able to throw away my glasses and only need reading glasses! See you soon!

  4. Debbie, You definitely touched my soul with your honest , candid but educated way to question progress in Nicaragua. I absolutely welcome your neutral way to notice the good and bad moves trying to reach or frame progress in Nicaragua. Also I am a stronger believer in education as the main tool to reach a better future in any country. I hope Nicaraguan can reach the consensus that working to buy capitalist junk instead of investing on their education take them away from preserving their cultural identity. Also a society that tries to live beyond their means falls on debts that compromise their freedom to choose their destiny

    • Thank you Irma. Sometimes it is difficult for me to be neutral. I try to explore all sides of an issue, and in the area of progress there is much to be said for the progress that benefits everyone. I totally agree that education is the key! There is some progress being made in education, but I get impatient with the baby steps and wish there could be more resources available for the students. If they only invested the money into educational needs instead of those crazy electric trees of life. ❤️

  5. Yes its Wicca and …evil….period …only proof that the evil of the sheeples allowing money to be their God ,, just like in the states ….. ..which sucks now too…

    I was just in Sarasota, Florida last week… and a young dude standing at the elevator of the brand new Westin hotel was carrying a huge ice chest , I asked why .. he said he was an electrician there ,,,
    200 ,000 people in Florida still without electricity…he was there from New Jersey , the Westin was putting them up… sweet…..in their 5 star brand new hotel….. many of those guys .. very cool..

    We got into the elevator , with my friend Ellen , him and another couple , en route to the 19th floor . I casually mentioned to this couple the dude was there helping get the electric happening .. wasn’t that great….??

    Well this woman played into him quick , scolding him that her electric was STILL OFF ..and they had to stay at the Westin now for over a week ..etc …ugly etc ….

    Well, I had it with this bitch… I layed into her ..Im done being nice and politically correct ,,screw that mess….
    how dare her petty complaining while others were without homes , food , water , etc ,,,are you THAT UNCONSCIOUS DUMB SHEEPLE ????

    Her husband hung his head in shame , she …speechless , my friend gulped and the New Jersey electrician laughed ..and gave me a thumbs up..

    That rich bitch unconscious Sarasota woman . many there …the same type, only thinking about themselves …UGH!!!!!!!
    get a life and wake the fuck up….

    In the world such as we are in now , with the contractions of great change in many ways getting worse ….and they will,,,,for the rest of our lives now ..
    you will see what you posted widen worldwide as the world takes a dump. I mean in your face shit like that …

    The rich and the poor , more divided and stupid , the crooks and corporations pushing their deceiving agendas ….including Christmas tree bullshit with ridiculous price tags in poor uneducated areas… and meant only for the rich…..anyways

    From …rocket man , to the twit in Nicaragua , the dumb ass sheeples will follow till they get slapped and suffer more …which they will…

    a few will wake up . not many…. and thats the sad part ..

    Be wary souls out there , lest you fall prey to the new world agenda….wake up ..and
    go towards the light !!!!

    • Heidi, you rant so much better than I do. Lol The world has gone mad, yet I need to redirect my rage or I won’t survive. I’ve quarantined myself in my house for weeks now, due to the epidemic of pink eye in Nicaragua. My doc said I don’t want to get pink eye in my healing eye. I kind of like being a hermit, away from the craziness of the world. ❤️

      • Sometimes things happen that remove us from the world .. and I can sure relate to your hermit stage ,,,Im getting real close to my dream of living off the grid as much as possible , not being attached to all this material world , buying my cool lil RV,, ,so I can hop in it whenever and drive south … whenever ….
        Lets just say ALL my plans are in revision …dont want to be toooooo planted …any where!!!!! Ever…. not in this world…..
        Actually being away from the fallen world puts you more in touch with what I call the Holy Spirit …and I’m led , by listening to ..my own ..””constant companion”” too.
        I’m tired of being …politically correct ..screw that …hahahahaha..
        And I don’t give 2 craps what people think of me either … most people out there are gross pigs , liars and deceivers , crooks and perverts …anyway ..
        and thats the truth ,,,
        very few ultra cool and conscious people ..period ..
        and I know alot more than most people about many of the Satanic happenings in this world too…
        need i go on..its disgusting…
        In the meantime , Im loving my adventures , shooting a wedding in Bali and Boston , and many in Central and South America , also shooting a fashion spread this week . fun!!!

        Hope u sell your place and your eye clears up , it will…
        Keep your ” light on ..”

        Blessings ,

  6. Sad to read about those electric trees and over $1,000 for a Christmas tree?! The latter is outrageous even in the US!! Even here, there aren’t Christmas decorations up, thankfully. I love Christmas, but not until after Thanksgiving (which is much too late for retail here as well.) Thanks for your thought-provoking post.


    • You are very welcome, Janet. I avoided the malls in the states at Christmas like the plague. Black Friday is the worst. I am so tired of a consumerism driven society. That is one of the things I like the most about living on Ometepe Island. We are kind of isolated from the madness. The progress we see here, is real progress in the best interest of all the local people.

  7. The electric trees are the Trees of Life. Some say it’s Wicca. The over the top display of the ” haves ” and “have nots ” is exactly why El Salvador., Honduras and Guatemala have become so dangerous . Nicaragua chose the path of a revolution but 35 years later fines itself right back to square one. Wonder where this will lead.

  8. Too often the needs of the many are overlooked for the needs of the few. Traditional values are important. I hope Nicaragua can keep the traditions that make them special. Becoming more like the U.S. Is not so special. Thank you for your thoughtful blog. I always enjoy reading about your travels and experiences in Nicaragua.

  9. Those electric trees are in very poor taste….perhaps this just reinforces the attitude of the nouveau riche in third world countries…..they like loud….chincy…plastic junk that we the midde class used to like but now find cheap and tacky..
    .when touring the local markets in south america 30 years ago the locals wanted all the cheap plastic wares and the tourists all wanted authentic hand made wools….baskets..etc…the problem becomes how to dispose of this stuff…..the lower classes in the states fill up their shopping carts with as much junky stuff…perhaps they see quantity over quality….it all seems so damn mixed up dosnt it?

    • Great thoughts, Laura. I have to laugh at your comment about the cheap junk sold in the markets worldwide. It is getting harder and harder to find quality and authentic handmade goods all over the world. And when we do find it, we pay a hefty price for it. It really is all mixed up, topsy turvy world.

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