Nicaragua I: Apuyo > Granada > San Juan del Sur [reading Ramirez & Darío & Cuadra & Diaz]

Corpus Christi

11.3.10. NYC to Managua [via Miami]

on the pLane i read Margarita, How Beautiful the Sea by Sergio Ramirez—appropriate enough as it is a sort of hYstorical REconstruction of Nicaragua centered on it's 2 key figures—the acclaimed poet Ruben Darío & Anastasio Somoza [the original dynasty-founding dictator] | the book illustrates the importance of literature in Nicaragua to the point where its LITerature IS its hiStory [or at least inseparably intertwined][& if to further validate this Ramirez himself was the vice-president of Nicaragua from '85-90] | there are 2 storylines that [despite being 50 years apart in reality] eventually blur & converge with each other—1 path following the life of Darío & the other the plot to kill Somoza | it's spun from the P.O.V. of no one & everyone [Nicaragua is socialist after all] & has a cast of characters so colored it requires an appendix to keep them all straight [also useful to cross-check the validity in comparison to Nicaragua's «real» history | there's: {Jorge Negrete the Mexican cockfighter who wears spurs on a boat | the luchador «Lion of Memea» that sports a rotten lion hide | Rigoberto the poet assassin | the Alligator Woman | a barbarian doctor that removes Darío's brain }—etc.—a veritable circus sideshow complete with albinos [due to a curse from Nicaraguan women sleeping with Yankee marines] | the boat bringing Darío back to Nicaragua morphs into a boat carrying this evolving cast of freaks that conspire to both assassinate Somoza & plan the production of a play [this was my take on it anyway—maybe i was reading into it & yes i was reading the English version so who knows what was lost in translation] | the dialogue was at times hilarious especially when the customs official enters the picture & starts interrogating them & official business digresses into debate over theatrical drama & poetry & the sex of the Alligator Woman | the lines between fiction & history are smeared & often you discover that it's the most absurd things that are actually true | i left the book behind so i don't have any passages to quote in particular but take my word for it—there's botched sex-changed surgeries & colostomy bags & a struggle over Darío's brain that leaves it lying on the cobblestone amidst broken glass | a great primer to Nicaragua i'd say |

[in reality] we arrived in Managua & rented a car | we didn't bother with Managua just headed straight out | driving in Nicaragua is interesting to say the least | there are no signs & streets have no names & when you ask for directions you typically get cryptic ones in respect to landmarks that haven't existed for 20 years | we somehow managed to find a volcano [Masaya] & drove to the top though our shitty rental car could barely make it | the volcano was steaming & frothing [with sulfur whose taste we couldn't shake] so you couldn't see much | evidently it is one of the few volcanoes with a perpetual lava pool |

crater of Masaya

after initiating ourselves with a volcano we found our way to Laguna de Apuyo which is a crater lake in an extinct volcano | we got a waterfront room at some eco-lodge & parked ourselves for a day just to chill & swim in the mineral-rich geothermally heated waters of the lake | when we weren't mindlessly swimming way out into the deep blue expanse we were looking for monkeys or reading or playing with the dogs & parrots |

Laguna Apuyo at Sunrise



sunrise through trees

i figured i HAD to read some Ruben Darío so i read a book of his collected Stories & Poems | somewhere in the Sergio Ramirez book i think he talks about how Ruben Darío's fame is not so much from his poetry but his personality & how historical records show that only 1000 or so of his books were published & that Darío himself likely owned many of them | so i guess you have to appreciate Darío for who he was [the worldly boozer & womanizer & diplomat] not for what he wrote | or maybe you have to consider Darío in the context of his time as the first «modernist» & that he preceded the likes of Borges or Marquez | the book was dual language so i'd read the Spanish first before finding myself lost then realized i was equally detached reading the English so it didn't matter | interesting nevertheless [from a language perspective] to see how it was translated | being as i'm amidst a self-administered crash course in Italian it's weird to switch back to Spanish but i guess it's good practice regardless | the way they speak here is very sing-songy & less crude than Mexican Spanish |

12.3.10. Laguna de Apuyo

heard all sorts of noises in the night—geckos & bats & howler monkeys & bushbabies & who knows what else | a hard adjustment from the overhead trains & bridge traffic & noisy neighbors back «home» | we woke up with the sun & i went to find the source of the howler noise & here's some creatures we saw:


i moved on to reading Pablo Antonio Cuadra [his Songs of Cifar & the Sweet Sea]—far more accessible & enjoyable than Darío | Cuadra reads like a cross between Whitman & Neruda | i also read the bilingual version of these not needing to refer to the English much | they are narrative poems that follow the adventures of the sailor Cifar who plies the waters of Lake Nicaragua recounting his adventures & observations which are told with child-like wonder | every time he sees something he sees it for the first time even if he's seen it before | i read most of it on the dock shown in the picture below though Apuyo is not nearly as big as Lake Nicaragua [where we're headed next] |

Songs of Cifar on Laguna de Apuyo

Pablo Antonio Cuadra: Songs of Cifar

although bodies of water are regarded by most as feminine—Lake Nicaragua to Cifar is an ethereal father-object with his mother ever-beckoning from the shores:

dijo la madre a Cifar
   —¡Deja las aguas!
Sonó Cifar el caracol
y riéndose exclamó:
   —El Lago es aventura
   —Prefieries, dijo ella
lo temerario a lo seguro
lo extraño a lo conocido.

Said Cifar's mother:
   —Leave the waters!
Cifar sounded a conch
and, laughing, exclaimed:
   —The Lake is adventure.
   —You prefer, she said,
the risk to safety.
   —I prefer
the strange to be known.

along Cifar's odyssey he encounters—{ other islands | fishermen | farmers | sages | a one-armed sailor | Mirna the prostitute | unpredictable weather formations}—etc.—that all get woven into the BEing that is Cifar [seemingly unaware of himself] | he ventures about leaving no tRaces except words:

Yo le contesto: En tierra
repetiendo pisadas
abre caminos
el hombre.
Las aguas no tienen sendas.
        El Lago
     no guard huellas.

I answer: On land
repeating footsteps,
man opens pathways.
The waters have no paths.
        The Lake
     keeps no tracks.

very Odysseian—for example the grunting in the following harks of Circe:

las velas blancas secándose al sol
y el humo del desayuno sobre el cielo
y pasa el tiempo
y esperamos y esperamos
y gruñimos
y no llega con las mazorcas
la muchacha vestida de rojo.

and white snails drying in the sun
and the smoke of breakfast across the sky
the time passes
and we wait and wait
and we grunt
and she does not come with ears of corn
the girl in red.

& some last words just because:

Todo parece griego. El viejo Lago
y sus hexámetros. Las inéditas
islas y tu hermosa cabeza
—de mármol—
mutilada por la noche.

Everything seems Greek. The old Lake
and it's hexameters. The unpublished
islands and your beautiful head
—of marble—
mutilated by the night.


«lora mojada»

wet parrot

starting to run low on books & it's only the first day so i read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz that j had brought along & finished & since i guess the D.R. is not such a stretch from Nicaragua | i'm not sure i liked it as much as Drown but i suppose it passed the time & was easy enough to read | his characters don't fall into the typical Dominican stereotypes—nerds & goths—but after a while it seems he is trying so hard to not stereotype that the characters don't feel genuine nor believable | & the voice & language is casual street lingo that also gets a bit trying after a few hundred pages | i mean ¿how many «Negro, Please»s must we endure? | i know he's trying to let us all into his inner posse or whatever but it all gets too cutesy [especially when you look at his smug photo on the back reclining on a couch with orchids & his designer glasses & all that] & i felt like a white college chick at starbucks eating a bran muffin with the book propped up in front of me to make me seem culturally enlightened | you shouldn't need to be his homeboy to read his book | & he keeps talking about this voodoo fukú shit & saying things like «In Santo Domingo a story is not a story unless it casts a supernatural shadow» but Oscar Wao falls flat with any semblance of magical payoff black or otherwise | i have to admit it was compelling enough to finish but i felt dirty about it after |

i also started to read The Obstacles by the Eloy Urroz | unlike the critic darling Díaz [whose getting enough attention]—i want to say something nice about Urroz since it was published by Dalkey Archive & all but truth is it bored the hell out of me | it follows 2 characters [one in D.F. & another in Baja, Mexico] that are both so obsessed & troubled over women that they suffer all sorts of gastrointestinal & health ailments | so if you're into reading about love-struck [read: pussy-whipped] guys then you might like it | i personally couldn't stomach more than 50 pages of it |

13.3.10. Granada

our bathroom here is basically a roofless garden patio which makes for good star-gazing when you take a leak in the middle of the night | this morning i was showering in this patio when i felt something on my leg | i looked down & figured it was a branch sticking out of a potted plant so continued washing my hair when i felt it higher up on my thigh | without looking i brushed it off then cleared my eyes & looked & it was a wet scorpion scrambling off | scorpions were the the things i feared most living in Mexico [where they can be lethal] so i was pretty much freaking out—especially being as it was inches from my manhood |

we split for Granada after that | everything in Nicaragua is close together [at least away from the Caribbean coast or up north]—only like 30 minutes to Granada | it was insanely hot so mostly we hung out on our balcony looking out over the plaza people-watching & drinking beer | i unknowingly left the video camera on at one point so if you want to know the kinds of things j & i mindlessly talk about listen to the background noise of this [mixed in with a few stereos all blaring simultaneously in typical latin American fashion]:

& here's some other things we saw around Granada:

G sun-bleached map

sun-bleached map


G church square

Corpus Christi church


G street scene



G churchyard



G marketplace

vampire market


«Lovable Kenya» store

Tienda Kenya


G wall

Granada vice


shanty texture


the food's been pretty much shit here so far but tonight we had possibly the best steak [churrasco style] i've ever had in my life at a place called El Zaguan—so succulent you didn't even need a knife to cut it |

14.3.10. San Juan del Sur

pushed off to the beach today | thank god for google maps & j's blackberry as nothing is marked & people's directions were usually more misleading than helpful | we spent an hour or 2 on all these random dirt roads trying to find some schmancy resort called Morgan's Rock | google map had it pinpointed a few miles south from where it should've been so we almost gave up on it after wandering into some abandoned resorts & one beachside palapa with a fat couple wasted out of their minds dry-humping on a card-table littered with empty beer bottles from the night before |

it was worth the effort though as this place was unbelievable—though it ended up being twice as much as we thought [which was already a lot] as j didn't realize the price was per person & not per night | oh well j in particular was in need of a well-deserved splurge & this was it |

there's no word for «heaven» in Spanish—only «sky» [cielo]





(c) 2010 Derek White