Beware of loud Americans with obnoxious opinions, as I learned again tonight when I was approached by a seemingly friendly New Yorker (while having my dinner in an outdoor restaurant) who just would not stop talking.
After regaling me with some interesting tales about life on the east coast of the country, where the locals speak a curious language (Moskito) which has been compared to Pidgin English, the internal alarm bells rang when he switched to politics.
Before I knew it, this tall, geeky type was explaining to me 'why' the Americans had sent the 'Contras' into Nicaragua in the late 1980s. I couldn't believe the arrogance, this assumption that the good old US of A has a right to mess around with and abuse every little country in its own back yard, and I nearly exploded when he got on to calling the current President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, a 'war criminal'.
Unfortunately, due to a busted foot, I was unable to kick the man. But when I countered that good old Ronnie Raegan and George W. Bush could also be perceived as war criminals, he told me this was "only an opinion". Only an opinion, after I had listened to his tripe for half an hour? I could sense the pointlessness of the conversation and got out of there.
I'm no apologist for Nicaragua's current leader after a month in the country, but I am full of admiration for a tiny country (with a population similar to Ireland's) which staged a revolution to topple an awful, right wing dictator (Somosa) in the late 1970s, and dared to stand up to the might of Uncle Sam and its rotten Contras.
There has hardly ever been a 'war' in which atrocities were not committed on both sides ... for 'Bloody Sunday', internment, or Maggie Thatcher's response to the hunger strikes, which gave the IRA huge legitimacy in the eyes of thousands of Irish people for years, we had 'Omagh' and 'Enniskillen'.
But it shocks me the way some Americans go about their daily lives in Nicaragua, full of their own self-importance and not a bit conscious of the fact that fate has been kind to them (economically, if not mentally!) by virtue of where they were born.
It's low season in Granada, so it doesn't take long to get to know some of the expats if you are into drinking along La Calzada, the only pedestrian zone in the entire country.
To generalise, most of them are male, in their 50s and 60s, divorced and retired, and enjoying life here because their dollar will allow them to buy the company of pretty girls in their 20s.
That's all fair enough, I've seen their likes in Thailand (mostly Brits and Germans), even if it is a sad reflection on the entire world that people feel to compelled to sell their bodies in order to get out of extreme poverty.
But what sickens me is the way these North Americans sit around the same bars every day, drinking Flor de Cama rum. They show nothing but contempt for the street vendors who approach them selling ceramics, cigarettes, cashew nuts, or a countless variety of trinkets.
These 'gringos' don't speak Spanish, so they dismiss the local traders, loudly, in English; and then complain among themselves about how annoying the locals are.
This is in a country where a huge per centage of the population struggle to put food on the table every day, where they dream of doing crap jobs in Costa Rica or the USA.
Daniel Ortega is no Saint, I have learned, just as my first (and only) trip to Cuba ruined my illusions about another revolution 11 years ago.
But the poverty in both countries has only been exacerbated by the terrible foreign policy decisions of the Americas' only superpower down through the decades.
Just imagine, if instead of arming the Contras to the teeth, what this country would be like if the USA invested in its education and its infrastructre.
Nicaragua needs hope and investment, as there is huge potential in this youthful country which has so much poverty and unemployment.
What it doesn't need is more and more North Americans, who only come here because their dollar can go further in the poorest country in the Americas. I don't care if they are drinking themselves to death on Flor de Cana, as many of them are doing each day, but it annoys me as a fellow 'gringo' (in the eyes of the locals) to see them insult the Nicos so regularly while they plonk their fat asses outside a handful of pubs.
There but for the grace of God, any of us could have been born a Nicaraguan. And hundreds of dollars will buy you a prostitute in any impoverished country, no matter how fat, obnoxious, or ugly you are.
Sadly, the New Yorker in his 60s still hasn't come to that realisation, as he abuses the locals in a language they don't understand. So it's probably a good job he is too dumb or lazy to learn Spanish!
I don't mean to put down all North Americans, because I have also met some incredible Americans and Canadians during my time here, many of whom have given up their time to help out those in need through charities and NGOs.
But Nicaraguans have a distrust of loud North Americans ever since a man called William Walker came down here from the USA, staged a coup, and took over the country for a brief time in the 1850s. From what I've seen here so far, they are dead right!
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