William Walker and the Ten Year Old Lad

Trip Start Apr 17, 2001
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Hotel Don Alfredo

Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Saturday, March 1, 2008

 "Eighty Cordobas is your change, sir."
"Danke," I replied in German.
"Bitte," The kid's eyes went wide as he looked up at me. "Sprechen sie Deutsches?"
"No, solimente Ingles," I answered in Spanish.
"Hablas Espanol?" he asked.
"No, ich nur Englisch," I replied in German.
The kid, open-mouthed, ran off to his German father, the owner of Hotel Don Alfredo, in old town Granada, and spoke in a language that sounded neither German, Spanish nor English. I felt good for ten seconds or so, able to mess with the head of a ten year old. Then I paused and realized that the lad can converse, probably accent-free, in at least three languages. I, on the other hand, can do nothing more than ask basic questions in Spanish. And I have to phrase my questions in such a way that I get yes or no answers. Once the questions go beyond simple response, the person I'm talking to looks at me as though they are talking to a puppy. I'm language damned, growing up in North America, offspring of the colonials. A fool though I am, I sat with a silly grin at being able to mess up the child.

In the mid-1800's, an American mercenary named William Walker, along with a couple of hundred followers, created, for lack of a better word, a coup in Nicaragua. In 1856 Walker was elected President of the country and his leadership was even recognized by then US President Franklin Pierce. But the bugger wanted more - all of Central America.

In his quest, he annoyed US billionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt, who considered himself to already have commercial exploitation rights. Vanderbilt pressured the US government to withdraw Walker's recognition. A strong resistance to the Walker regime ensued and he fled Granada, burning a good part of the city as he left. In 1860 Walker was captured in Honduras and executed, perhaps, for being on the wrong side of money.

Today, after 150 years of decrepitude, Granada, this little known Spanish colonial jewel, is beginning to shine. Pretty pastels on the facades, friendly people in the streets. Increased prices in the stores and restaurants. It all goes hand in hand.

William Walker's original house at one corner of the central park is now a hotel. Rooms go for $180 a night. Our room at Hotel Don Alfredo, and we've got almost 600 sq.ft., rents for $35 a night.

But to put it all into perspective, Ellen and I had just finished a meal in the central park. Feeling full, Ellen left a few potatoes on her plate, a bit of orange pop in a bottle. As we got up to leave, a shoe-shine man, perhaps in his early 20's pointed to Ellen's plate, asking if we'd finished. When I nodded yes, he wolfed down the leftovers in seconds.
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