MANAGUA – Outside the Managua airport we were met by a representative from the Best Western hotel who asked about our flight. The Best Western Las Mercedes is located across the street from the airport, but still a van is required to take us there given the highway is not an easy crossing.
We asked if the hotel representative had ever been to the Atlantic Coast? He said no, that he had never flown in a plane. This is despite the fact that he worked to the sound of arrivals and take offs all day long. Like many who have never flown before, he said he was afraid to fly.
It’s an hour-long flight from Puerto Cabezas to Managua, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The roads across the country are not good, and a bus will take up the better part of a day to undertake the same journey. Some travel through Honduras to reach the Atlantic Coast, but the route is not considered safe.
The day began with a previously unscheduled meeting with the Mayor of Puerto Cabezas. Reynaldo Francis Watson has only been in the job for a month, but he already looks like he carries the weight of the world on his shoulders.
Puerto Cabezas extends far beyond the immediate urban area. It takes in more than 80 local communities and covers a region with 320,000 citizens. About 40 per cent of the municipality live in the city. More are coming every day.
The Mayor tells us that he has a budget of $1.6 million, about 250 municipal staff, and the city owns one garbage truck. Turns out we had seen it for the first time that morning – more of a dump truck than the garbage trucks we are accustomed to seeing on the streets of our Canadian municipalities.
Garbage is everywhere, often providing food for the wild dogs and cats that wander the city. Along the roadside we encounter smoke as residents burn their garbage in the streets. Passing a creek we noticed that it is full of plastic bags waiting for a torrential rainfall to wash it all out to sea.