You may recognise the name of the town ‘Masaya’ from the turmoil, which hit the Central American country of Nicaragua in April this year.
From January to April, I lived in Masaya working for the charity Raleigh International as their Communications Officer. On 19th April, as we were going about our usual manic day-to-day lives at the Raleigh office, riots broke out in Masaya and the capital, Managua, due to policy changes made by the government.
These policy changes created a knock on effect of violence and unrest within the country, which is still going on today and reopened old wounds that desperately need healing before peace can grace this incredible country once again. If you want to know more about the political situation within the country, please have a read of these articles here, here and here (politics isn’t my forte and I don’t want to write anything that is factually incorrect).
With these articles and photos in mind, you may now associate the name ‘Masaya’ with masses of rebel groups disguised by masks and balaclavas shooting rubber bullets and live ammunition in the street. You may think of the towering brick barricades that have been built for protection during shoot outs along the roads. You may think of mass riots powering through the city’s schools and square.
However; this is not the real Masaya.
To me, the real Masaya is its worn multi-coloured houses and its women selling exotic fruit and crunchy tajadas (plantain chips) from giant woven baskets in Parque de Central.
It’s the continuous sound of Latino music blaring from the most unexpected shops at the most unexpected times of day and the sound of fireworks being shot into the air in the middle of the day – just because – the Nicaraguans love any excuse for a celebration.
It’s the craftsmen weaving elaborate hammocks on their front porches ready to be sold at the market the next day and the backdrop of Masaya’s active volcano puffing out clouds of smoke across the horizon.
This is the Masaya I know and love and the Masaya that needs to be remembered.
It’s easy to disassociate yourself with all the terrible things that happen around the world – we all do it – but, when I read news articles and watch videos of the turmoil that has hit Masaya and the rest of Nicaragua, it hits home that bit more. I called this country home for three and a half months, I had my local shop, my local cafe, my local eatery and it pains me to know that these places may be in ashes because of everything that is happening at the moment.
I’m not writing this post as a way to convince you to go to Nicaragua now – that wouldn’t be wise – but I’m writing it so that you can see and understand another side to the country that isn’t all conflict. It’s one of the most peaceful and charming countries I have ever visited and I would go back in a heartbeat if I could. The country has a long way to go but once it’s there, please go and experience the welcoming warmth and beauty it has to offer, I can guarantee you it’ll capture your heart like it captured mine…