New Years Eve came and brought a huge slew of visitors to San Juan. There were tons of internationals who came on vacation and there were also lots of Nicaraguans who came to the beach for New Year's parties. I spoke with Nicaraguans from Managua, Masaya, Blue Fields, the Corn Islands, and I'm sure there were people from other parts as well. On New Years day, the streets were filled with families and friends relaxing, celebrating, eating picnic lunches, and going swimming. I interviewed those out and about and asked them about why they came to San Juan for the holiday.
I was really starting to get going on the video in San Juan, but I also wanted to keep options open for filming in other communities. So the next day, Lauren and I packed up a small backpack and went off for the Island of Ometepe. We took a bus to Rivas, got a ride in a tricycle/cart to San Jorge, where we took a ferry to the island. Ometepe lies in the center of Lake Nicaragua, which lies within the country's borders on the South West side. The island has two volcanoes with communities surrounding them.
When we got to the island, we took a taxi on a long unpaved and bumpy road around the edge of the island to a community called Balgüe. We decided to stay on Finca Magdelena - a farm just north of Maderas, the smaller of the two volcanoes. The farm is run by a co-op of 24 Nicaraguan families. They produce coffee, beans, rice, plantains, and a few other crops. In 1980, after the Sandinista Revolution, the government did a huge land reform, taking land from the wealthy Somoza family, who (backed up by the U.S. government) ruled since 1937. As part of the land reform, the Sandinistas gave a large farm to 24 Nicaraguan families. Since then, the same families have been running this farm and providing jobs to those who live in Balgüe.
One of the members of the farm told me that a few years ago some tourists would come to visit the farm and ask if they could stay the night. Slowly, more visitors came and asked if they could stay for a few more nights. The members of the farm decided to build a few basic rooms and a kitchen so that visitors could stay longer and also eat there. Virtually all of the food that they cook is grown on the farm. This is where we decided to stay.
I felt incredibly at peace here, surrounded by nature and without city life. This was obviously a contrast to the more hopping San Juan. While there were a few other tourists in Balgüe, it was clear that this community was not facing the same kinds of changes (or at least not at the same rate) as was occurring in San Juan Del Sur. I began to speak with the other people staying there, as well as members of the farm and the community; I realized that there was a huge potential to get some great comparative material from spending time in Balgüe.