Nicaragua is taking the “Christmas in July” concept to a whole new level.  The famous (or infamous, depending on who you’re asking) first lady, Rosario Murillo, commissioned the placement of giant, ostentatious Christmas trees in each of the several rotondas (roundabouts) scattered throughout Managua. Placed there in October 2008, the trees have overstayed their welcome well into 2009. And Nicaraguenses can plan on enjoying these magnificent, lit trees against the horizon for at least the next several months. Murillo has ordained that every tree gets the number 30 put on top of it and that it stay in place through the summer to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Sandinista revolution.

Arbol de Navidad La Rotonda

Perhaps even more interesting than the trees in the rotondas are the small groups of people, called los rezadores (“the prayers”), that stand in these same roundabouts throughout the day (and sometimes at night, too) waving the national flag (which, incidentally, has gone through more changes than many celebrities’ noses) and chanting that love is greater than hate. Paid 200 cordobas (or US$10) and provided three meals per day by the government to propagate the Sandinista message (in an effort to make the government more popular with the people), these typically poor citizens actually oftentimes end up unpaid, and a little worse for the wear.

I have been very impressed by the average Nicaraguan’s knowledge of the political situation of his/her country, perhaps because it hits so close to home and profoundly affects each and every person, at all social strata and on a daily basis. I have not been so impressed with the all-too common disillusionment and impotency to affect change felt by most people with whom I’ve spoken. And on that note of empowerment (or lack thereof), the average middle-class citizen here is quite interested in having access to microfinance services – as if microfinance is the mainstream credit service for the country. Which it probably is, considering that half of the population lives in poverty.

Nicaragua, along with the rest of the world, is in trying times. But what is unique about this country’s crisis is that it spans to include a recent, turbulent and violent political history that remains to be settled. Perhaps Murillo and los rezadores she has commissioned should reconsider the extension of the holiday season and what exactly they are praying for. 

More to come soon about my MFI, ADIM. You can help out ADIM clients here. Feliz Navidad!

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