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Randy Wood in the Casa San Francisco

On Saturday, 14 January 2006 a crowd of about 40 expats, travelers, and interested Peace Corps volunteers gathered at the Casa San Francisco in Granada to hear me speak about Nicaragua, writing, real estate, and politics. Afterwards I hung around to sign a few books and chat with some of the audience over a cold Toña.

I’d like to thank Terry Leary and the crew at the Casa San Francisco in Granada, Nicaragua for putting together a fine show last night. Terry gets the credit for tracking me down in the first place and suggesting the book signing event. I do a pretty good job of writing and researching but marketing is not my strong suit, and it’s because of Terry’s creativity and perseverance that this event happened at all.

The setting couldn’t have been more lovely. The Casa San Francisco is a treat for the eyes, gorgeously restored with a tiled roof and panels of new caña brava on the ceiling, a tremendous hard wood bar, and fresh flowers everywhere. And of course the hostess had everything under control.

Amusingly, a several points throughout the talk a local band of kids came by with the gigantona, a grotesque statue of an enormous woman accompanied by drums and a repeated chant. The drums tended to roll whenever I opened my mouth to answer a question. Impeccable timing! Once the gigantona passed, it was the Granada version of the “party bus,” a brightly-painted tractor towing a train of wagons full of kids and tourists accompanied by merengue music played at full blast.

The crowd knows and loves Nicaragua and jumped right in with hard questions I enjoyed answering. Some of them are listed here below:

  1. What do you think about CAFTA? (I am absolutely pro free-trade, but think free trade should be free on both sides, and the United States still has a way to go before eliminating the subsidies that protect special interest groups back home. But increased trade has clearly benefitted the Nicaraguan people since capitalism began to sink in again in the early 1990s, and increasing opportunities for local entrepreneurs can only strengthen the nascent business community in the future).
  2. How about privatization of public utilities, like water? (I couldn’t have hoped for a question I was better prepared for after having written a long economic research paper on the topic two years ago - read it here - but in short, the privatization of public utilities seems to be most beneficial when it is done correctly but it is infrequently done correctly and in places like Nicaragua it is probably not a good idea).
  3. What is the ratio of Nicaraguan to Costa Rican tourism? (Great question. I wasn’t able to answer it on the spot, but after a bit of research I learned that about 1.5 million tourists visit Costa Rica every year, and about 400,000 tourists visit Nicaragua every year. Not bad for Nicaragua, but there’s clearly an opportunity for growth in this market).
  4. Are there any trends in tourism that alarm you? (The growing number of sexpats in Nicaragua is alarming, though it has hardly hit epidemic proportions yet. Still, poverty often to exploitation and I think this is one area where some tourists are going to wear out their welcome. I hope it’s sooner, not later).


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