To start a series of cultural posts, I thought I would start off with a very important part of life in Nicaragua: Transportation. From animals to bikes, cars, and tractor trailers, there is a wide variety of ways to get you and your stuff around.Which means of transportation does Alison use?
I use buses, trucks, taxis (mostly in Managua, the capital), some walking and occasionally I mount a horse for a good time's sake!What about Nicaraguans?
Let´s start off with ANIMALS.Donkeys or "burros"
are everywhere in my part of the country. My town, Somoto, is even called the City of the Burros. Donkeys are used for transport of goods, especially firewood and sacks of food like beans, rice, and corn. They can hold an amazing amount of weight, and have a fascinating ability to walk to specific places without having a person herding them. I often see them walking alone down my street where I live carrying heavy loads without any human being leading them...I don't know where they are going, but they sure do! Donkeys are also commonly used for transport of people, especially children.Bulls
are used in transport in two ways. They pull large wooden carts used to move large objects (like furnature) for cheap prices. They also are used for riding during cultural events like rodeos which are held in my town during all major festivals. There is even a mini-running of the bulls event in the streets during the annual November Carnaval in Somoto.
are a large part of Nicaraguan life no matter where you live. You can see them even on highways in the capital city of Managua alongside tractor trailers, cars, and motorcycles (see below). Principally they are used to transport people from place to place, herd animals (sheep, cows, donkeys, bulls), control the bulls during the rodeo, and during the festivals' horse and cowboy/girl parades which are called "Hípicos". Horses are even used during Fiestas Patronales during the competition to choose the Reina or queen of the festival. One of my personal goals is to learn to ride a horse before I finish my service.
Now let's talk about transporting with VEHICLES:
In order to move in and out the many items produced and received here like beans, corn, and soda, it´s necessary to use tractor trailers
. I often see these because they come and go on the highway that passes my town on their way to Honduras- I live about 20 minutes from the Hondoran border. Tractor trailers are also used to transport the occasional migrant worker home from other countries such as Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Guatemala.Trucks
are one of the most common vehicles used by Nicaraguans to get around. Very few people own their own cars here so most people catch a ride with a friend, neighbor, or unknown person passing by and going their way. People pack into the back of trucks like you would not believe...a safety hazard, but a free ride and often the only means of getting around. I use a truck in my job as we travel to rural mountain communities to teach about sexual and reproductive health to adolescents. They can also be used to transport materials for building structures like houses and latrines.
is rather uncommon here in Nicaragua, though it would be an ideal vehicle for getting around the rough roads, if only it didn't eat up so much gas! SUVs are, however, used as ambulences in each county and you can find the Nicaraguan rich riding around in them in Managua and larger cities.Cars
are used most commonly as taxis but some are used for personal use as well. I will note that the Toyota Echo, my mom's car, is one of the most popular here amongst private owners, and goes by the name Yaris in Nicaragua.
, I would say, is the other major means for transportation amongst the general public besides trucks. Buses go to nearby communities and far away cities like the capital. Every state capital has a bus station and you can even get to other countries using the bus. Bus rides tend to be an interesting experience. Most are old school buses from the U.S. sold to Nicaraguans, and some still carry the old U.S. city's or school's name on their sides. The owners often paint them as they like with various colors and the names of the major cities the bus will go to.
The buses are always really really packed with standing people leaning in to where others are seated because there just isn´t enough space. At major stops, vendors will get on, usually women and children as these are amongst the poorest jobs, selling food like fried chicken, enchiladas, ice cream, and drinks. They even sell natural medicines, jewelry, and anything else people will desire to buy for cheap.
Sometimes a church member will get on asking for donations to build their church, and children, the physically disabled, and the poorest of the poor in general will get on and outright beg for a peso (worth about 8 U.S. cents).
You can see some pretty funny and crazy things on the bus. A few of my personal favorites have been: a live pig kept in a bag with its head sticking out so that it doesn't get away, people carrying live chickens upside down (next month's dinner), Nicas wearing funny Tshirts in English without realizing what they say (I once saw a a large guy from the campo get on with a shirt that had a picture of a latrine and said "Luke, don't force it Luke!" in reference to someone making use to that latrine, and a lady carrying a bucket with freshly chopped cow legs hanging out of it. Needless to say, the buses are hot, a little smelly, cramped, and noisy...but somehow I still very much enjoy taking them for the adventure...plus they are cheap.Motorcycles
are common amongst Nicas that work for NGOs and government positions that require them to travel to the rural communities. Lots of men also purchase them, as they are cheaper than a car and most women do not drive here.Tricycles
are bikes with a sitting cart in front for transporting people short distances that have some baggage. I personally like to use them for getting myself and my groceries from the store to my house as they are cheaper than taxis and more fun.Planes
are principally used here for travelling long distances out of the country, but one can also take a plane to reach the Atlantic Coast states where there are some major Nicaraguan tourist sites. There are buses that go, but the roads are long and in really rough shape.
For a lot of Nicaraguans, walking
is their prime way of getting around. Walking doesn't cost money and its often the only option for those that can't afford or don't have access to other means of getting around. People here walk hours on a daily basis for various reasons: to get water (carrying buckets on their heads), to get to school (anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours of walking to school), to get to a health clinic, to go shopping in the nearest city for food, clothes, and other items, to go to work, and to visit friends and family, amongst other reasons. I often see mother's carrying babies and small children and men with heavy sacks of food walk 10 or more miles to reach their destination. It is both heartbreaking and astonishing to see what Nicaraguans endure because of poverty.