Reflections on the Road: Nicaragua in Black and White (Part Three — Managua)

Filed in Gather Travel Essential by on December 29, 2008 0 Comments









The first thing I said as I stepped off the bus in Managua was a word I won’t bother to type up.  Dusk had fallen over the Nicaraguan capital and so it was into darkness that I alighted from the bus, landing my full weight onto a plastic bag of liquid, which exploded not just onto my sandal-clad foot but even straight up the length of my thigh (I was wearing baggy shorts).  Clutching to my chest the backpack that contained my expensive computer and camera as barely visible forms of people swept by all around me, I stared wide-eyed into the night and wondered, “What the heck is dripping down my leg?”


I will never know if it was soda or juice — I expect juice — but with a sticky leg I proceeded to bargain with taxi drivers whose faces I could barely make out.  Their prices were fantastic aberrations of what beforehand I had been told by a friend they should be, and so I took my sticky leg and soggy sandal down the block, clutching my bag tightly with one hand while leaving the other partially free to wallop potential thieves.  I was anxious to get out of here…and get a shower.


Half an hour later, having reached a compromise with one driver, I was at the home of my friends and taking a shower.


My time in Managua would be short — two nights and one full day.    What follows are photographs from that one full day…

Managua was hotter than blazes during my visit.  I suspect the heat was not the cause of death for the person whose funeral was underway when I stopped by the city’s new cathedral.  But it was why, before visiting the church, I had ducked into the air-conditioned Pizza Hut across the street.  There I drank five glasses of Pepsi while eating a personal pan pizza and side salad.  I also observed — and was a little self-conscious of — the fact that I was the sweatiest, smelliest person in the restaurant. Everyone else had driven here; I had walked four miles with a backpack.

Note the roof of the cathedral. The 63 domes have two purposes: to represent the 63 churches in the Managua diocese and to give added structural strength to the building in case of earthquakes (which are common in Nicaragua).

Forty-five minutes after the cathedral I arrived in what is called Area Monumental.  Once the center of Managua, it was largely destroyed by a 1972 earthquake.  Here a bronze, Sandinista-inspired statue depicts a man holding a pickax and rifle.

And here are two teenage girls holding neither a pickax nor a rifle (though they did tell me they are Sandinista supporters).  We met while I was still in Area Monumental, photographing the dilapidated remains of the city’s old cathedral.  They approached and asked what I was doing.  Scarlette, in black, spoke startlingly good English; Nayara spoke hardly any at all.  I told them I was photographing buildings in Area Monumental and asked if they’d like a photo.  This was the first we took — and all I thought we would take.  But their company was nice and they were photogenic.  And, I told myself, decrepid buildings make great backdrops for people photos.  I had almost no people-photos so far in Managua, and the girls said they had time to spare and would love to “help me” with my photos.

Nayara sitting on the steps of the old cathedral

…and Scarlette doing the same

The area above the steps was sealed off and a security guard was on the premises.  But he gave permission for the girls to cross over the barrier so we could have a different backdrop.

It was about at this point — after maybe 30 minutes of taking pictures at this back corner of the building — that an old woman walked by and told the girls something in Spanish.  I feared she might have said it was inapporpriate for them to be posing for pictures.  Instead, she simply warned that we had been in this one spot too long: enough people would have seen my nice camera that it would be wise to move to the more public side of the building, lest someone or a group of guys gather and attempt to steal it.

I had been keeping a good eye out behind me as I was taking the pictures, aware of that possibility too.

Our final destination was Lake Managua, just a few minutes walk from the church.  Dusk would soon be upon us and we all needed to begin heading our separate ways.  My one day in Managua was done.  And thanks to Scarlette and Nayara, it had included more than just old buildings and cathedrals, more than pizzas and pepsi.  It had included two strangers introducing themselves, and bringing life to my pictures.


For Part One (Granada), click HERE

For Part Two (Masaya), click HERE


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Joel Carillet, Gather Travel Correspondent

Joel’s column, “Reflections on the Road,” is published every other Thursday to Gather Essentials: Travel.

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.   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.   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

When not on the road, he happily calls Tennessee home.

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About the Author ()

I'm a freelance photographer and writer who focuses on travel. I sell my work on istockphoto -- -- and have published a book called 30 REASONS TO TRAVEL: PHOTOGRAPHS AND REFLECTIONS FROM SOUTHEAST ASIA

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