As we drove into the misty coffee shrouded mountains of the Matagalpa region I was reminded of all of the history of the past decades. This area was a stronghold of the Sandanista forces, and if you look you will see statues, museums and recognition of their leaders and heros in almost every town. All along the road I saw their attempts at equality through the redistribution of land into collectively run farms. Almost all the coffee farms looked like they were owned by groups, and even though there is economic debate on how much this is actually helping better the lives of the poor, I like the idea of giving the poor a chance to work hard and try to make a living for their families. You have to start somewhere.
To understand Nicaragua you need to understand the suffering the country has gone through over the last fifty plus years. Also, being American, I feel obligated to acknowledge the role the United States played in this country’s turbulent history. The US backed the corrupt family of rich dictators (the Somozas), funded illicit wars unapproved by Congress through arms sales to Iran (who more than likely are selling those weapons to terrorist groups fighting against the west now….) and the CIA secretly trained armies to fight the guerrilla forces of the Sandanistas. Proxy wars against communist/socialist leaning countries may have seemed necessary during the historical time period, but reflecting back they sure caused a lot of hardships to the poor and already struggling people of the countries caught up in them.
You can feel that Nicaragua is still slowly shaking off decades of instability, war, and hardships. I am glad that the people we met didn’t hold a grudge against Americans. In fact, I was touched by the warmth of the people here and their kindness and generosity to us. However, when I asked people at the finca we got to know over a few days about the war, it was like a shadow passed across their face. Almost everyone past forty years of age said the same thing ” Things were very hard, but they are getting better now.” I really hope they are right.
Finca Esperanza Verde
Finca Esperanza Verde is an organic coffee plantation and organic farm high in the cloud forest of Matagalpa. It was started by Peace Corps volunteers and was created to teach the community about sustainable, organic farming practices. The farm exists off the grid (solar and hydroelectric power run it) and they support the community with fair pay and teaching local empowerment. On top of this it is nestled in the stunning mountains with views that are postcard perfect, it had some of the best local organic food of our trip and miles of well maintained trails to explore. We felt so happy and relaxed here that we spent days hiking for hours at a time with the owners puppy Oso who we fell in love with. We also spent time in the garden picking the greens we had been craving such as arugula, kale and chard that the owner sold us by the basket full.
The finca grows smooth tasting, fruity shade grown coffee and had free coffee available all day. I drank so much coffee in between long hikes that I went through withdrawal headaches when we left. No bueno, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Also, the sweet local women who maned the kitchen would bring us warm Nicaraguan rosquillas throughout the day which were wonderful corn and cheese cookies popular in the region. They were crispy, salty, sweet and so delicious I want to learn how to make them when I get home. It was a perfect few days and one of those places that just felt like home.