A photographer we’ve met, and whose exhibition of pictures of Nicaraguan life has just ended in Granada, has remarked on how timeless daily life is here. Bill Stanton’s rather excellent photographs span a series of visits over 30 years but, as he says, it’s hard to tell which pictures date from the 1980s and which ones were taken last year. (That’s one of his lovely images above.)
There’s been an influx of Western money into Granada over the past few years, mostly from North Americans lured by the once faded colonial grandeur of the place. That’s given rise to the usual dubious side-effects – a property bubble, gushing real estate prose and the gradual conversion of the main street into the Nicaraguan equivalent of Temple Bar (but no need for expensive rain umbrellas here).
But in the rest of town, and certainly beyond it, life goes on pretty much as it always has under the tropical sun. There are no shopping malls, chain stores, branches of McDonalds or virtually any multinational. People buy their groceries from family-run corner stores, and they eat out at street stalls manned by casual vendors. Most homes have televisions, but there are few other electrical appliances – vacuum cleaners, even fridges. Washing machines are toploaders only. The police drive Ladas. Government offices echo to the clack-clack of manual typewriters, and store vital information in dusty, over-sized paper ledgers. The carriages pulled by teams of skinny horses are an essential means of transport, and not just for the tourists. The push-carts in which rubbish is collected have wooden wheels, while bicycles are used to transport entire families. Some motorcyclists do wear helmets; it’s just a pity there is no strap to secure their headgear in the event of an accident. I’m sure there are taxis with working seatbelts, but I just haven’t been in one yet.
It might be nice if people had greater access to Western consumer goods, but I wonder if it would make much difference to the quality of their life or state of contentment.