During the second half of my trip to Nicaragua, we traveled from the mountains of Matagalpa and into the capital city of Managua. On our travels, we made a few important stops along the way. The town of Masaya was populated with Nicaraguan artists who made their living through fair trade, making clay pots, paintings, and jewelry. The dedication and beautiful artistry in this town was incredible. All the artists used natural and local ingredients from the earth to create their art. We also went to the infamous Masaya Volcano- the first established national park and also one of the largest active volcanoes in the country. A little known fact about Nicaragua is that there are long volcanic chains which run through the country from north to south. Due to this natural geological process, there is a wide crater in a form of an inverted cone, and in the center of it there is one of the most beautiful lagoons in Nicaragua: the Apoyo Lagoon. This may have been one of my favorite days in Nicaragua- spent exploring an artist community, volcanos, and kayaking in a natural crater lake.
When we finally got into the city and met our second host families, they welcomed us into their tight-knit urban communities. One of my favorite cultural differences in Nicaragua was the sense of family ties and warmly receiving everyone into your home. My host family lived with extended family members all within their one home (not something seen as “the norm” within the states). They made sure I was comfortable and tried their hardest to accommodate me regardless of the language barrier. A cultural shift in Latin America was women at the center of the home- women were both laborers and heads of their families. Both my host mothers were working non-stop working, cleaning, cooking and taking care of their families. It was both a demeanor of strength and burden.
Although I had amazing cultural and travel experiences, the most important aspect of my trip was my class. Learning about women and globalization in Nicaragua was an eye opening experience. Not only did we visit fair trade vs. free trade coffee farms in the rural parts of the country, we also visited factories in the urban communities as well. Free trade factories are built by outside companies from different countries who decided to outsource their work to pay their workers smaller wages. This was one of the most disgusting and alarming experiences of my life. The poor conditions of these factories were something that no one should be succumbed to make an honest living. Some of the conditions working class citizens had to go experience were poor air quality, working several hours a day with no breaks, and making pieces of clothing for as little as pennies per piece or $40 American dollars a week. This encounter along with the coffee farming experience led me to believe that brands matter- if you have the means to be picky about where you buy your clothing and resources, you should look into it and be more conscious about choosing companies who do not outsource their work.
We saw a lot of negative aspects of globalization but we also observed some of the good that communities were doing to combat these effects. On our last day in the city we visited a non-profit called “Podcasts for Peace,” an organization that built a social justice community center in a more vulnerable area of Nicaragua. This community center gives young adults better options and helps them to become activists and leaders in their communities. Podcasts for Peace helps to enrich the lives of children across three focus areas: Creative Expression – Academic & Life Skills, and Health & Wellness. This organization was an uplifting experience after seeing some of the more negative aspects of globalization. You can visit their website, donate, or check out some of the work their doing in Managua through the link below.
My trip to Nicaragua opened my eyes to a lot of global realizations. The realization that not everyone lives the way I do in the Westernized world. Hearing stories of “sweat shops” or learning what “fair trade” was in high school was easy for me to place in the back of my head and forget about in my everyday life. Seeing (mainly) women working for 12 hours a day tirelessly to feed their families on $40 a week or farmers working with their entire families to sell their hard hard earned living is a different story. I learned a lot about unfair economic practices and global impact, especially on women, but I also learned about how rich Latin American culture is. The importance of family, food, art, and nature within Nicaragua was a marvelous and new phenomenon for me. If you have the chance to go somewhere outside of your comfort zone, go. It is a fearful thought to be somewhere unfamiliar and new but if you go, you will experience a whole other world different than your own. I cannot wait to go back to Nicaragua and experience more.