Finding My Way In Nicaragua

What used to be: There's a model of Managua's downtown before the 1972 earthquake destroyed it all.

What used to be: A model of Managua’s downtown before the 1972 earthquake destroyed it all.

The first hotel we stayed at in Nicaragua was the Posadita de Bolonia, in Managua. The hotel’s address: Canal 2, 3 cuadras abajo, 75 varas al sur. Translation: Channel 2 (a TV station), 3 blocks down, 75 yards to the south.

That is the official address, and it’s actually one of the more straightforward addresses in Nicaragua.

My husband has a friend, for example, whose address – we’re talking about the thing you write on the envelope if you send someone a letter – included instructions to “turn right at the white rock.”

In Bluefields, I went to a government office as part of a story I was reporting. The office’s address is “across from the Tip Top store.” Tip Top is a fast-food chain; The office was across the street from their main distribution center.

In Granada, my husband and I found a woman who sells delicious nacatamales, and I asked for her address so I could direct readers to her. Her address, in case you’re wondering, is a block and a half south of the Colectivo de Taxis que van a Managua. South of the bus stop where buses leave for Managua.

Some houses do in fact have numbers: The one we rented in Granada did, for example, but it’s address was still listed as half a block north of the Hotel de Corazon, a hotel on the corner. Otherwise, if you’re looking for a private residence you should be glad that people tend to know each other and they tend to be around. In one case, I was looking for a house where I was supposed to meet someone for an interview. I knew it was near this hotel, so I just asked people around that hotel if they knew the woman by name. They did, and I found her easily. In fact, every time I went to a private residence I had to ask passersby if they happened to know the person by name. Luckily, they always did.

So far all the addresses I’ve cited have been pretty reasonable. But one day, when we were lost with one of my husband’s cousins and two of his aunts, we were told to turn right “where the Ferreteria Elan used to be.” Luckily, his aunts knew exactly what that meant – even though the Ferreteria (hardware store) hadn’t existed in decades.

My husband and I laughed about it, and mentioned that addresses had been a source of constant amusement, particularly where addresses or directions are given based on something that used to be somewhere. “That’s nothing,” one of his aunts said, looking at us. “There’s this hill near the Mercado Oriental (near center of Managua) that people call ‘the hill where the bald guy’s house was.’ When the area was still rural – maybe 60 years ago – some bald guy lived there. Now both he and his house are gone, but if you say ‘the bald guy’s house’ everyone knows where it is.”

So beware of the white rocks, and the ghosts of bald mens’ homes when you’re trying to navigate in Nicaragua.