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Managua

A snippet on this unique city

Managua is a city that at first glance appears to lack an identity of its own. In fact, one could say that it's identity is strong and home grown, lying beneath the surface of its myriad structures. It is an amalgam of all the things it has liked from other cities, especially those in Florida. Managua is an architectural Frankenstein, suddenly thrust into the role of capital city without a gradual evolution. It's development truncated and deviated due to earthquakes and armed conflicts that leveled much of it to the ground; it is best described as a collection of neighborhoods connected by arteries, which in turn follow paths around the now extinct landmarks of the past. These by-gone reference points still serve to orient the resident to this day in lieu of actual addresses. Managua's identity isn't lacking, it is rather a shape-shifting amorphous mass that is in a chaotic and dramatic flux.
At the same time it's a city that has had several opportunities to re-invent itself, in the first place after the devastating aftermath of its earthquakes which cleared the city of its oldest structures in the former city center. In second place is -perhaps even more strongly- the desire for change, renovation and resurgence inspired by the great social dream of the emblematic Nicaraguan revolution led by the leftist Sandistas in the late 70's but embraced -initially- by all sectors of the population.
It's roads and their use appear to be the most strictly controlled and regulated feature of the city. In contrast to the uncontrolled aesthetic and non-existing building code that allows the explosive irregularity and unpredictability of the re-purposing of homes and buildings are its well built and well maintained road network. Serving Managua's ever-changing economic needs the road network is peppered by a police, eager to pounce on motorists with steep fines for the smallest moving violations, or sadly more often than not - substantial bribes to get out of said fines on the spot.
It's wide, Palm tree lined avenues connect its contrasting collection of barrios and colonias in the same way a cluster of grapes is brought together by its stems. Sharp turns, sudden road-width changes, surfacing jumps from asphalt to adoquin to pot-hole ridden dirt roads and callejones, Managua's road network can be just as unpredictable an experience as its architecture is, with a measurable impact on the human countenance and any vehicle's structural integrity.
The city's chaotic architectural aesthetic combined with its palm-tree lined avenues are the setting for its redeeming component: its people. Managuans are warm, friendly and absolutely informal. They are a charming lot who take life a little at a time, taking the time to enjoy it. Like anywhere else, morning traffic is a nightmare, with gridlock slow enough to infuriate a snail. At lunchtime the overbearing sun beats down on everyone equaly, rich or poor and temperatures soar. People lunch in the hundreds of eateries, restaurants, cafés and food courts dotting this metropolis of chaos. Come the evening, nearly everyone settles into their beloved porches after work. Now this, this is what makes this city so special.
From about 5pm people begin to make their way home from work, arriving tired and hot from the merciless heat. After a moment people make their way onto comfortable wooden rocking chairs with woven back rests and seats. Here people wind down with a refreshing drink: a cacao, ice-cold tiste or a gritty pinolillo. Some enjoy a Flor de Caña rum with their favourite mixer. Everyone sits back and engages in conversation. At around 7pm many folks make their way to the local fritangas -street eateries specialising in typical foods like grilled chicken, fried pork or beef, fried sweet plantain, sliced fried green plantain, gallo pinto, cabbage salad, fried cheese and steamed yucca. Since the early days of the city Managuans have enjoyed eating at fritangas and chosen it over cooking dinner at home. It's a custom that's still alive and well.
After dining, still in their porches, managuans will catch the evening soap, followed by the news and discuss them both passionately into the night, sometimes from porch to porch. They then retire to their bedrooms for the night, to do it all again the next day.
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