The concept of Nicaraguans as greedy, money hungry people...

LaFoca's picture

I wish I could have portrayed this to people in Nica Living, who keep insulting Nicaraguans while claiming they are "Nica." Maybe it is the way these people represent themselves that gives them such a xenophobic perception of Nicaraguans. That has not yet been my experience.

Today, once again I Skyped with a man my husband befriended in Nicaragua. Ever since my husband disappeared into the bowels of DME and asylum, this wonderful man has been Skyping me, knowing of my worry over my husband's case.

We are fortunate to have many Nicaraguan friends, who in spite of the assumption everyone has stated (that they all want money) have offered to pay for attorneys, his rent, and so many other expenses, even when I insist I can pay. THIS has been done out of the kindness of their hearts, knowing most likely, that I make an enough income and can afford these expenses. They have offered me so many services and never asked for one dime in return!

I'm convinced some of these people in Nica Living, who live in North American enclaves do not understand the way they are perceived while living in those sheltered communities, and that it keeps the people of Nicaragua suspicious of them. I've been told this over and over, by people in Mexico while living there, my husband's family in El Salvador, and now, my Nicaraguan friends. You cannot become "one with the people" if you fear them enough to live away from them.

It was never my husband's nor my intention to move to any expatriate community in Nicaragua. We have never lived that way in any of the countries either one of us have lived. To me, it seems highly ridiculous not to learn Spanish, reach out to the people of a country, and learn about the place you live. And I assume that this may be the reason we have been blessed with good people's friendship in Nicaragua and so many offers to help us.

Now, I'm sure that like any other country, outside of our friendships, there will be the usual need for paying "mordida" to move services along, to motivate some government workers, and many other reasons which follow in line with most Latin American countries. But to imply that each and every Nicaraguan is this way offends me. I've met too many already who have not only offered my husband free rides, but free information, free dinners, so much help for not one dime. These people took my husband in immediately and offered him hope there, possibly realizing he is a genuine and good person too. And I hope that when this process is over, we can return those kindnesses. Maybe people should THINK about the reasons they move to a country before they relocate. If you are terrified of a culture of people, then why bother moving to their country? Retire somewhere, or invest somewhere that you can feel comfortable, otherwise you become the paranoid personalities I've seen in that site.


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Here is what I am saying

That misdemeanors such as imbibing too much alcohol will not land you two years in jail in Central America. But they will land you in jail...usually with a release the next day. The penalty suits the crime. You will not need an attorney to defend yourself against an aggressive policy to enhance profits for city revenue at the same level as is happening inside the U.S. today. You may or may not need an attorney to fight more serious charges, and it could be that more serious charges are applied to you in Central America if a police officer takes a disliking to you or has an agenda, the same as it happens inside the U.S.

For instance, during the 80's in the Rampart District of Los Angeles, there were several police officers (CRASH) who were planting drugs on gang members, simply because they were gang members. Two of these police officers were found guilty in doing so. The same thing happens worldwide. But in Central America, it is VERY UNLIKELY that an elderly woman would have been threatened with a 2 year jail sentence and aggressively pursued by the Prosecuting Attorney's office for pressing excessive force charges against a mentally disturbed police officer. It happens with great regularity in the U.S. today in many minority communities.

And no, I do not see the difference between tipping and bribes. They are both forms of gratuity, although one is considered illegal. Any more than I see the difference between gambling and the concept of mandated auto insurance...which is simply forced gambling, where you place money against a risk. Gambling is illegal in many cases. Auto insurance is legal and required.

I see both of these arguments as societal and cultural norms. Sometimes the perception of these norms isn't understood by those who didn't grow up with them.

I don't mine disagreeing either. It keeps life interesting. :)

Are you saying

Hi LaFoca,

So am I hearing you correctly that you think when the police falsely accuse you of something in Central America, that you're less likely to need a lawyer than in the U.S, because in Central America you can just bribe the judge and get out of it?  I think I understood that correctly.

And you don't see a major difference between tipping (which is legal) and bribing government officials (which is illegal)?  For you this is a cultural difference but not one where you would judge one or the other?  It reminds me of one post I wrote about four years back, where I've reprinted here on this site in my post about the roots of Nicaraguan poverty.

I don't mind if we agree on some things, disagree on some things; I do like to see diverse viewpoints well-articulated.




With the people...

In all honesty Peter, I didn't consider you a person that avoided the communities of Nicaragua from what I read about you. You appeared to have moved among Nicaraguans and have a mastery of Spanish that allows you to become a part of their country.

I think what you bring up in questioning the use of mordida in Latin American countries is a cultural difference. As you know, bribes are a social norm in doing business there, just as tipping is a social norm for receiving a plate of food in the U.S. For instance, tips at one time were considered appreciation for a service. So we tipped waiters who brought food to our table who demonstrated some form of graciousness in doing so. But today, there are tip jars all over counters where food is ordered and taken on a to-go basis. We tip for purchasing a product and receiving it, even when it isn't served to us. And this pattern is duplicated in so many areas. We tip the mailman for delivering our mail. We tip the mechanic for fixing our car. We tip AND pay for services, much as mordida is used like a tip in Latin America to motivate action or efficiency.

And in the U.S. there is a degree of head turning too when crimes are committed. Look at the sentences of Martha Stewart and Paris Hilton as compared to people who are not celebrities. We not only turn our heads, but when these people ARE sentenced, they receive special treatment...special visits from family members, special concerns if they suffer medical or emotional ailments, and often special treatment by their jailers. I can give you an example of that. When I visited my husband in immigration prison, there were certain dress codes I had to observe. No exposed shoulders. Nothing too tight or too short or too revealing. When Paris Hilton was in jail, her family broke many of those dress code regulations that each and every other family member was forced to observe. When my husband requested medical visits it took three months and sometimes over a year for them to offer treatment. Not so with Martha Stewart or Paris Hilton. They received immediate attention, because the public relations would have been bad for the institution to treat them like most prisoners. The head-turning we do on a regular basis with senators and congressmen who break laws, like Rod Blagojevich, former Governor of Illinois, where we feature him on reality shows after he has indited for corruption isn't any different than other head-turning, IMO.

That a culture of people has a different method in daily affairs may be unacceptable to you, but it doesn't make that social norm for them any better or worse...just different. As for walkng into the DMV office in the U.S. and not needing an attorney, and simply paying a transfer fee, I have to say that there are many other instances where you WILL need an attorney in the U.S. where in Central America you would not. I know of a case where a woman looked outside of her gate one night because she heard a noise and was concerned gang members in her neighborhood were lighting fires by her property again. She had been hosting a BBQ all day and had enjoyed a few drinks. When she opened her gate, three police officers were arresting a local thug. One of the officers told her to get on the ground. And she was an elderly lady who didn't move quickly enough for him, so he threw her to the ground and in the process of cuffing her, left quite a few bruises. There were many witnesses to the excessive force he used on this woman. She became terrified and refused to answer the officer's questions. They arrested her and let the thug go. She served three days for that in the city jail, because the officer lied and said she had been "Drunk in Public" and "Resisting arrest." She had not been in public, she was behind her gate. She also had not resisted. Her bond was $10,000 and she couldn't pay it. For that, she needed an attorney, because after she pressed excessive force charges against the officer, the prosecutor wanted to give this woman who had never been arrested in her life two years in the county jail, if convicted. She went to her hearings for six months, terrified she would end up in jail and won. But it cost her $3000 for an attorney to do so. In Central America she could have bribed the court and been done with it, without any risk of being imprisoned over such a petty offense. In the U.S., our cities are so thirsty for money, we have taken misdemeanors and now created a need for attorneys. What is the difference between that and payiing mordida? We need attorneys for many things people do not in Central America.

I think it is simply a cultural difference. But I do find it offensive that many, who unlike you, live in North American enclaves and never learn the culture feel they can comment on the cultural differences. Especially, when these morons come to Nicaragu not even speaking Spanish and form idiotic conclusions and then call themselves "Nicas" to feel they fit in.

blanket statements

I suppose I may have made some blanket statements about Nicaraguans, or poor people, or Filipinos, also Americans, Germans, Japanese, and many other categories of people. I am quite judgmental, for instance, of the lack of passion for learning about many of the things I value (like efficiency) even when they are explained in a generous spirit. Or, I am judgmental of the complacency with which so many Nicaraguans in my experience look the other way when crimes are occurring. In my entire history in Nicaragua, I never met a single Nicaraguan who did not have a tendency to look the other way when made aware of crime, and I do judge them as a class for that. Does that offend you that I say that? I am sure there are many semi-Nicaraguans who don't live in Nicaragua who aren't this way. Maybe there are even some in Nicaragua, though I think I never met them over the course of 3 years there (living among the people, not in a gated community). Of course, on the other hand (especially poor, rural) Nicaraguans can be very generous to interesting strangers who stumble into their neighborhood. But just because something starts out good doesn't mean it won't end bad. What things are rare in Nicaragua? Money, water, trust.

You say that in any other country, there is a need to bribe a government official? This might be the case in most countries, but in many places in the U.S. a person can walk into a DMV with a title signed over to his name by the former owner, and without dealing with any lawyer, simply pay a transfer fee, and in less than an hour, the car will be retitled in his name, and he can take home his new title and license plates. Likewise with transfer taxes for property, go to the title company, pay the modest fee, pay the modest taxes, and then a few days later it's recorded. Try that in Nicaragua...

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