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Nicaragua In the News

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Nicaragua Real Estate - City, Suburbia, or Country

Some people with little time in Nicaragua are probably wondering if city, suburbia and country living works the way it does where they live. I have lived in big cities in the U.S., a few small cities, some towns, in casi-suburbia, and in the country. I will try to compare them. The similarities may surprise you.

In the U.S. in the 1960s when gasoline was $.25/gallon and crime in the cities was increasing, the "solution" was to move to suburbia. Bigger houses, bigger lots, lower crime and generally a new house. For most, the downside didn't start becoming obvious until gas prices started going up. Bottom line is that pretty much everything required an automobile. Taking the kids to school, a quick grocery trip, a trip to the bank, ... Thus, the decreased house cost and apparently getting more was offset by the additional costs associated with getting to where you needed to be.

In much of Nicaragua you don't see suburbia. It certainly exists in Managua—partly because it is just "a big city" and partly because the core of the city was devastated in the 1972 earthquake meaning there really was no real city. In Estelí there is one development north of town (where the airport land was pretty much stolen and turned into a housing development I am told) and some other developments where people sell a lot of lots but there are few houses.

Private automobile ownership is much lower in Nicaragua than the U.S. and with today's gas prices, using a private automobile is not practical for most anyway. That alone is going to prevent a lot of suburban developments that can serve the average Nicaraguan. For example, I do not know of any such developments near Matagalpa.

The plus side of being "in the city" is easy access to a lot of things where "easy" generally means a short walk. With a lot of small stores nearby and year-round good weather, people are more likely to just walk anyway. The down-side of being in the city is no different than in other countries: pollution, noise, crime, ... Like anywhere, there are trade-offs. For some, being able to walk or use inexpensive public transportation is a necessity. For others, it is just a preference.

Another city advantage for some is that the neighborhood store will likely offer you credit. They know who you are, where you live and when is payday so, while prices will be higher than the supermarket, convenience and credit make this an attractive option.

The city is also more likely to offer mixed-generation households. That is, grandma, for example, may live in the same house. Her "business" may be making tortillas for sale at the house or tamales that one of the children will sell on the street in the evening. What this means is unlike suburbia, most houses have someone home most of the time plus there are more people on the streets. This at least partially counteracts crime.

Is there crime in the cities? Of course. But, much like cities in other countries, you know what crime is where. For example, the prostitutes hang out in front of Shell Esquipulas. Used car salesman (probably a crime) on the Pan Am. ...

Now, living in the country may come as the biggest surprise. That same "neighborhood grocery" will exist in the country—even if there are only 10 families nearby. With low wages, a small store can make enough to operate—even if it is just the people living there buying in bulk, covering their own needs and selling the rest. In the U.S. this would not be possible because of zoning regulations, business licenses and such. But, here, even getting a 100 lb. sack of rice delivered on the bus can be turned into a business.

As you can probably tell, I am no fan of suburbia. To me, (and I have lived there) it is the worst of everything. I didn't know my neighbors, I had to drive everywhere and, well, there was no sense of community. In the city, that sense of community seems to come from the local stores, having kids in school together and generally sharing your environment. In the country, you depend on each other because you don't have a car to drive to the city. But, much like in other countries, the choices are there.