El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua
El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua
El Salvador, Honduras and to a lesser extent Nicaragua is considered to be one of the world’s “most dangerous regions”. The reality is El Salvador and the Honduras do have high murder rates. And Nicaragua did experience horrific political violence including the murder and torture of student protestors over the past year. But our journey through this region was not dangerous. We received a warm welcome by the people of the Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua and never felt unsafe, although we did take common sense precautions.
One of the books we bought to prepare for our trip.
It’s fitting that a region that has experienced so much turmoil is also one of the most active geothermal regions in the world. It seems that wherever we went in these countries, and in Central America in general, there was a volcano on the horizon. Many of them are active, which didn’t deter us from climbing them!
A year ago there was a town under this river of ash. It was destroyed by a 1,000 degree ash cloud moving at 300 miles per hour. The river of ash was declared a mass burial ground.
On a more positive note when the Santa Ana volcano in El Salvador erupted in 1995, the water in the lake below shot out of the crater, creating rivers of hot water that flooded the slopes of the volcano below. Fortunately, only a few people were killed.
The reality is that the instability, poverty and violence in Central America been largely caused by 100 years of US-backed corporate plundering and military coups. Highlights include the US support of the authoritarian government during the El Salvador Civil War (against the leftist FMLN) in the 1980s and the US support of the Contra right wing rebels Nicaragua guerrilla war (against the leftist Sandinistas) also in the 1980s. In addition, the free trade agreement between five Central American countries and the US has made them almost completely dependent on the US and resulted in a huge trade imbalance (in favor of the US). As a result, the US gets cheap agricultural products from Central America. And Central Americans get our expensive industrial goods.
I don’t want to turn this trip report into a political diatribe. But as we traveled through these countries, we were struck by the reality that with a bit of effort and investment, the US could have a huge positive impact on the economies of Central American countries. And a $6B investment in roads or schools or sewage systems would have a much more positive impact on illegal immigration than a border wall ever will.
The amazing thing about El Salvador, the Honduras and Nicaragua people is that despite the damage that the US government has done to their societies, the people in these countries don’t hold it against us as Americans. One of the reasons for this is that many Central Americans have either worked in or have relatives who are still working in the US. Overall, like most people we have met around the world, they understand the power of the American dream. And they know that just because we are Americans, we don’t necessarily support our government’s policies.
During this man’s attempt to cross the Mexico/Texas border to work in Florida, he was caught and spent months in a prison in Texas full of illegal immigrants. Apparently the prison was infested by rats which the guards refused to kill, telling the prisoners that “the rats are your friends.”
A Central American man we met during our travel.
Climbing Volcan Concepcion on Isla de Ometepe in Nicaragua has been one of the highlight of our trip through Central America. It’s a relatively tough 1,600 meter climb through several ecosystems and a poisonous sulfur cloud. This is the view of Lake Nicaragua (the largest lake in Central America) from the summit.
During our journey through Central America, we continued our on an off effort to become decent surfers culminating in a trip to Rivas Province, Nicaragua. As “surfers”, we know that tides have a big impact on waves. To a certain extent, the turmoil that
Nicaragua has experienced over the pat 5 years is analogous to a rising tide followed by a storm surge and a very low tide.
5 years ago, Nicaragua was booming, driven largely by tourism. But on April, 2018, Nicaraguans protested against Manuel Ortega. The result on the economy, including on tourism, was devastating. Many Nicaraguans lost their jobs and most tourism businesses, including resorts, were closed (some for good). But as Nicaragua approaches the one year anniversary of the uprising, there is a possibility that Nicaragua’s tide is rising. Negotiations between the protestors and the Sandinistas are underway.
We love Nicaragua. It’s where we took our first overseas trip together. And it’s where we were married. So we are crossing our fingers and are optimistic about the future of Nicaragua.