Nicaragua is Central America’s overlooked paradise

Asoka Elon

It’s difficult to know why some images from our foreign travels, and not others, remain with us afterwards. In Nicaragua, I’d stayed in a design hotel on a private island, sledded down the slopes of a volcano, admired superb artworks in León and been entranced by the old city of Granada – but it was a religious parade that stopped me in my tracks. I glimpsed it on a side-road while travelling from a beach resort on the Emerald Coast to the Panamerican Highway.  

I asked my driver to pull over so I could watch. It was a stirring scene, full of music, singing, joy, community, energy and colour. I don’t know what feast day it was, nor where the congregants were heading; the beauty was in the moment – and in the human drama.

Which is, perhaps, the clue to why Nicaragua is so very special – there is a tangible difference in the way people live that sets it apart in Central America. It has something to do with resistance to US pressure by the Sandinistas during the revolution of 1979-1990, and with the fact ideological isolation set the country on its own historical journey. But it’s also true that religion is a vital part of everyday life and imbues Nicaraguans with pride and dignity.

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