This post begins what I hope will be a four-part series on Nicaragua, where I recently traveled for two weeks. Â The series will be a little different from most of my other posts in that it will revolve around photographs more than text, and that all the photographs will be in black and white. Â Each post will focus on a different town. Â We begin in Granada.
Granada was founded by the Spanish in 1524. Â Situated on Lake Nicaragua (which has access to the Caribbean Sea via the San Juan River), Granada was an important transiting point for people and goods moving from the Atlantic to the Pacific in the years before the construction of the Panama Canal. Â It grew rich from trade, which in turn attracted loot-seeking pirates from England and France. Â The town was sacked every now and then, most infamously in 1856 by none other than an American from Tennessee (my beloved home state). Â The guy's name was William Walker and he torched the place, which is why most of what visitors see today is less than 150 years old. Â (And it's also one of many reasons why Nicaraguans look warily at American involvement in their affairs.)
Much can be said about Granada -- its charm, its heat, its Spanish language schools and nasty 75-cent hot dogs available for purchase in the town square. Â But let's jump right to the photographs:
I crossed into Nicaragua on a Sunday morning from Costa Rica. Â It takes about five minutes to walk between the Costa Rican and Nicaraguan immigration posts, taking you past numerous trucks along the way.
By Sunday afternoon I was in Granada. Â After checking into a hostel, I set off on a walk across town, stopping by this church (Iglesia de Guadalupe). Â This family taught me a few words of Spanish and posed for some photographs. Â They were warm people.
I had thought everyone at the church, including the warm family above, was here just for a normal mass. Â But then a casket emerged from the building, trailed by tear-stained faces. Â I had inadvertently stumbled upon a funeral.
Unlike Costa Rica, where one must look hard to find old buildings and obvious signs of deep-rooted culture, it's easy in Nicaragua. Â While viewing the sunset from this bell tower, I was treated to the 5:00 p.m. bell ringing, which nearly left me deaf (and surely couldn't be good for this kid, who wore no earplugs).
Churches and signs of faith are everywhere in Nicaragua -- on bus exteriors, the occasional tattoo, etc. Â Here a man sits outside his home and paints ceramic images of the Virgin Mary.Â
And here a pharmacy is named "The Good Shepherd"Â
Christianity isn't the only thing prized in Nicaragua, so is baseball, particularly (in my unofficial survey) the New York Yankees
This is Angela, who works at a pharmacy and is expecting her second child in January. Â If I return to Nicaragua, she says, I'm invited to her family's home for a fish dinner and to photograph the entire family together.
And this is an anonymous painter who had been at work on a church ceiling all day
And these are two couples who had been thoroughly making out in the park across from the church. Â I interrupted their kissing to ask if I could photograph them. Â Wiping their mouths and smiling, they said, "Si."
Just a couple blocks away these two students were differently engaged: they had just returned from their university classes in Managua and were studying at the front door of the one girl's home. Â They both are working toward a degree in international relations and spoke English very well.
Lots of shoe shining going on in the center of town
And not far from the shoe shiners was this (very young) mother and her child
And not too far from the mother, sitting on the steps of Granada's cathedral, was this other family pair. Â I don't know if he was the father or grandfather, but in the half hour I was around the church steps it was obvious he thought the world of this child. Â (I'm guessing it was a grandfather.)
Horse and cart are still a common mode of transportation in Granada
Also on the steps of the cathedral was this man engrossed in his newspaper. Â The cover shows the previous day's political violence in Managua, the result of a disputed election and a reminder that for all Nicaragua's beauty, the country faces great challenges in the years ahead.
To head to Part Two, click on NICARAGUA IN BLACK AND WHITE (MASAYA)
|Joel Carillet, Gather Travel Correspondent|
His articles, based on extensive travels in Asia and the Middle East, seek to shed light on humanity, both our own and that of others. Â They aim not merely to entertain and inform but also to develop a sense of connection between the reader and the world.
Joel's writing and photography have appeared in several publications, including the Kansas City Star, Christian Science Monitor, and The Best Travel Writing 2008. Â He is also the author of 30 Reasons to Travel: Photographs and Reflections from Southeast Asia. If interested in learning more about Joel or purchasing photographic prints, visit http://joelcarillet.com.
When not on the road, he happily calls Tennessee home.
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