An Expat Life: Nicaragua Blues and Ruse
Friday, February 9, 2007
Yesterday, I felt sick to my stomach. No, I wasn't coming down with the flu. I hadn't been poisoned by bad gallo pinto or toxic tamales. It was a shameful pain, a reminder of what's not right in this world.
It started out innocently enough. You must know, Latin America has different values than what we are accustomed to. Some better, some worse. For example, I have great respect for the amount of time and attention spent on pedadogy...child-rearing, healthy physical relationships, fashion and many other aspects of 'cultura latina'.
However, I have never seen such lavish, grotesque manifestations of wealth in my life as what I witnessed yesterday. As is the custom with preschool age kids, birthday parties are celebrated with great fanfare....cakes, cookies, singing, pin the tail on the donkey, etc...We've all been there right? Well, you haven't seen anything until you've been to a 'Nica 4 Year Old Party'!!
Where do I begin? The single-malt scotch....or the parachute jump ride that belongs at Six Flags. Or maybe, the legion of ponies, an ice cream franchise shutting down their store in order to cater to this 4 year old princess. I haven't even mentioned the pinata, or the Al Pacino lookalike crook father that undoubtedly robbed his countrymen for such a life. I've been to weddings, even New Year's parties, that had less booze than this affair! The only thing I can liken it to is a Kentucky Derby gala.
At any rate, the pauper Americans arrived with their pathetic little gift of Play Doh and second rate designer clothes. The nerve, not to have hand-tailored clothes and a specially made costume for my son! As we were greeted by an army of servants, doling out party favors, and whatnot, I got the sinking feeling that this would be a long day. Luckily, Arantxa (Mateo's Mom) was there. We sat around and watched the spectacle unfold.....Nicaragua's elite of the elite at play. News cameras were there documenting the affair, servants wore pensive smiles, and bronzed, beautiful people, seemingly from another planet, enjoyed the fine February Nica winter. We could've just as well been in Malibu, Nice, or the Hamptons. But...sadly, we are in Nicaragua
Nicaragua, you see, is the second poorest country on the western half of the planet. Only hellish Haiti is poorer. Over 70% of Nicaragua's 5 million people live in abject poverty, existing on less than a dollar a day. There are all kinds of statistical ways of describing the squalor, but until you actually see it for yourself, the vacant stare in the eyes of people that have no hope, you really can't comprehend the misery. Driving around Managua, you'll immediately notice bands of window washers, hawkers, and other 'entrepreneurs'. Not unlike many other parts of the world, for sure, Managua is a rough and tumble city. At any rate, the point is not how poor the country, or capital is. It's the absurdism of it all.
You know, just watching these Nicas, wealthy beyond belief, and knowing how little is being given back to society, it pains me. There is no other big point. I'm just sad....That's all...