Once upon a time, the majestic mountain Mombacho exploded raining down ash and earth into the surrounding lake. Earth took root, as earth will do, and formed 365 isletas en el lago. As the name isleta implies, the islands are small – sometimes only large enough for a single house.
One isleta was once used for a fort by the Conquistadors to defend the city of Granada from English piratas. How adventuresome! Today, many are owned by wealthy extranjeros, with still more for sale for those wanting to invest in a small piece of paradise. Very few of the isletas are populated by local folks, with small shanties built of corrugated metal and connected to each other by lengths of clothes lines.
One small isleta is covered with mango trees and monos. The isleta is so tiny that there are not enough mango trees to support the burgeoning monkey population. The monkeys depend on people to come out in boats and give them food. If you pay to take a boat ride with a local, you can bring your own mangoes and hand them off to the monkeys, who will swing out close to your boat to get the tasty food.
When I’m not cruising around Lake Nicaragua in search of monkeys and cool breezes, I might find myself hiding out from the rain and craving a movie. Las peliculas available en el mercado in Nicaragua put both Redbox and Netflix to shame. For the low price of only 50 cordobas – slightly more than $2 – you can purchase 3 movies of your choice. The movies range in genre and quality. As I walk away fresh with new movies, I’m never sure what language I’ll be hearing, and if subtitlos en ingles are available. Sometimes, the movies are obviously filmed in a theater, with occasional outlines from the people in the front row, a la MST3K. This has its advantages when it comes to accessing movies not yet released on video. I was surprised with my last purchases to find that every single movie I’d brought home featured only Spanish language with no subtitlos. Que bueno for learning!
If you fancy a night out at the movies rather than a sit in at home, then there is one movie theater in town. It shows one movie at a time, with three showings in a week – at 6:45 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. There is no formal schedule online or on paper. Rather, a stroll by the movie theater to look at which poster is featured on the front window will tell you what is playing for the week. Admission is cheap – 40 cordobas is almost $2, and that’s the price for adults. Again, quality is in question. My sister went to see Nieva Blanca – the latest version of Snow White – and was treated to subtitles in Spanish and barely audible audio en ingles. My friend commented on how charming it was to see the shadows of the bats who live in the eaves of the theater.
Honestly, charming is the perfect word to describe so much of what I encounter here in Granada. The crumbling, colorful facades of an old colonial city provide a rich visual backdrop for the bevy of sounds that make up the tapestry of life here. My sister and I were awakened early on Wednesday morning by the bumping sounds of club music pouring out the always-open windows of the school across the street. “Todo los dias estan fiesta en Nicaragua,” my friend told me. So true! Miercoles pasado was to celebrate Day of the Teachers, a celebration which continued on through to Friday. This fiesta vibe charms me. I also find it charming that most people here choose “romantic music” as their musica favorita.
Here’s a piece of the Nicaraguan soundtrack for you: