It was like I had left Nicaragua arriving in Puerto Cabezas, almost. I actually was expecting the population to be almost completely Creol but there are a lot of Miskito (the indigenous people) who live in Puerto Cabezas now too. The languages most heard are Creol and Miskito, many speak Spanish but it is not the main form of communication.
As I was traveling alone I wanted to find a hotel that felt safe and thus ended up staying at a somewhat pricey place ($20 a night). It turned out to be a great place with a very nice woman running it and a wonderful night watchman named Mr. Soloman. There was a toucan and a maqua (big red parrot) in the patio.
I ended up meeting an anthropologist while at the hotel. He has been coming to the Atlantic Coast since the 70s studying the Miskitos people. He initially came down to study grisis siknis. A sort of psychosis or paranoia that is contagious. It mainly affects young women. These young women who are affected will have spells in which they take of running through the woods, sometimes clothed and sometimes without. A lot of times their families will tie them up to keep them from running. This man, told me of one account in which he went to a house to find a young women tied to the rafters in the ceiling to keep from her from running!
I explored the town. The houses are completely different than Managua. Many are 2 stories high, concrete and painted wonderful colors. Others are made of wood and raised up on stilts. Most of the roads were bordered by canals with running water – not sure how clean that water was.
I walked past a barber shop that was a tiny little thing with a group of men hanging out, playing a guitar and singing. They looked like they were having so much fun, I stopped to take a picture – which turned into a dance with the barber. Which lead to the conversation about why I was there in Puerto Cabezas. It turned out that one of the men was related to Irene, Phil’s mother and knew her and Howard very well and has been to many a party at the Hoos household in Ventura. I love how small the world is!
On Saturday I ventured to the beach alone, but was the only person there. I had thought I saw a beach that had a lot of people but it turned out to be a few children playing and then a group of young men. Not feeling reassured I left, which ended up being a good idea as a torrential downpour started as I walked back to the hotel. The next day, I went to the beach with a med. student from UCSF who is interested in medical anthropology and grisis siknis. It was Sunday, and the beach was packed with people, with men only. Apparently, women get to stay indoors and cook and clean on Sundays. The machismo in Puerto Cabezas might be the strongest I have felt yet. Maybe it was because of the absence of women on the streets, visibility but I did not feel as confident or safe as I feel in Managua – which is really saying a lot!
Despite this, I really enjoyed my time there and am looking to returning with the Hooses as they offer a guided tour of there old haunts.