A few notes from our recent trip to Nicaragua. We have traveled to Nicaragua many times and have always enjoyed the culture, the people, food and of course the coffee. Below we write about more of the cultural experience this year and some of the issues they are facing.
On April 18, 2018 the protests in Nicaragua first began. Spurred on by social security reforms decreed by President Daniel Ortega, demonstrations involving university students, the elderly and other activists broke out in Managua, Jinotega, Leon and other large Nicaraguan cities. The protests were violently repressed: live ammunition was fired into crowds, hundreds of protestors were killed by police and armed Sandinista militias, thousands more were wounded and tens of thousands have fled the country in exile. Nicaragua has been in turmoil for over a year now, and the end doesn’t appear to be anywhere in sight. Even in the relatively small and sleepy town of Ocotal, shouts of “¡Viva Nicaragua libre!” can be heard, quickly followed by the blaring of police sirens.
What amazes us the most about the Nicaraguan people, is that despite the tragic circumstances unfolding in their country, they still offer the most authentic hospitality, have the biggest hearts and have the most fun out of all the places we visit. It is nearly impossible to feel like an outsider in Nicaragua because the people simply will not let you. The amount of times we have been invited into the homes of people, who we barely know or have just met, to watch baseball or ultra-cheesy Mexican telenovelas is much higher than we ever could have expected. Nicaraguan culture is very laid back and tranquillo. In our experience, Nicaragua remains one of the most informal places we have ever been and it creates a truly relaxing and easy-going atmosphere.
Our partners in Nicaragua are having a tough time right now. Financing from the government, which was once available, is now gone and it’s becoming harder to plant new trees, rebuild drying beds and fertilize and spray crops to prevent roya. In response, we have committed to helping our partners at Expocamo by paying for several new drying beds, to replace some older, heavily used beds. These beds will improve the quality of the coffee not just for us, for but all the people around the world who buy coffee from Expocamo. We are super proud to do this for all Nicaraguan coffee lovers and to raise the profile of Nicaraguan coffee, which we feel is underappreciated.
Direct trade is so important to us because it gives us the opportunity to identify people like Rony Herrera and Francisco Valle Garcia, who are incredibly passionate farmers. Entering a partnership is incredibly beneficial for both sides. Buying coffee in 2019 is tremendously easy and convenient: many reputable companies have very easy to navigate websites, offering dozens and dozens of different types of coffees. It’s trivially easy to select 3 or 4 coffees, have samples delivered to the roastery and then purchase them with little-to-no direct interaction with the coffee farmers. Truthfully, many of these coffees, sourced by third parties, are incredibly delicious and affordable. But this is a lazy way to source coffee and deprives us of important relationships, unique flavors and great memories. Travelling to origin and developing friendships and partnerships feels like the right way to buy coffee for us.
Beyond coffee, the people of Nicaragua are simply good and we really like them a lot. We have been invited into their homes, dined with their families and watched many baseball games with them. The friendship we have developed is incredibly meaningful to us and every year we are so excited to go and see them again. We genuinely feel like part of the family in Nicaragua, which is honestly the typical treatment of foreigners by the Nicaraguan people, the hospitality is unmatched. Despite the hardships the people of Nicaragua are facing, they show every day that they still have some of the strongest hearts in the world. Saludos Nicaragua, te veo pronto.