The Nicaraguan and Spanish characters compared

Bizarrely honest or honestly bizarre?

From Ambassador Pinsent’s valedictory despatch from Managua, 1967:

In his excellent valedictory despatch … of the 23rd of July, 1963, my immediate predecessor, Mr. Patrick Johnston, opined that the Nicaraguan character probably acquired its main characteristics from the Andalusian heritage of the original Spanish colonisers. I regret that I do not entirely subscribe to this view. In my opinion, the Nicaraguans show little of the charm of the Andalusian Spaniard, and certainly lack his talent for music, art and spectacle. As I have pointed out in my despatch No. 12 of the 28th of April reporting on the Centenary of Rubén Darío, the true Nicaraguan is a mestizo of mixed Spanish and Indian blood and his culture is the result of nearly five centuries of mestizaje. This mestizo culture has produced some remarkable poets … but it has also produced a large number of corrupt politicians. There is, I fear, no question but that the average Nicaraguan is one of the most dishonest, unreliable, violent and alcoholic of the Latin Americans … Their version of Spanish is quite the least attractive I have come across. The Nicaraguan prides himself on his hospitality and will provide it generously to his friends, probably with oceans of contraband liquor. But apart from a thin upper-crust of society … I must confess that the Nicaraguan generally is not an attractive character and appears to have little natural courtesy: he will not give way to women or children unless he knows them personally; and he exhibits all the wo. features of “machismo“, or the demonstration of virility by competitive discourtesy. The late Argentine Ambassador .. remarked to me that this was “a country of savages” and that Managua appeared to him to resemble what the city of Buenos Aires must have been like in the 1850s (at around the time when British engineers building the Argentine railways were liable to be attacked by Indians with bows and arrows)…

[T]he better Nicaraguan business man is energetic and full of ideas and initiative … [b]ut in matters of commerce the fault of the Nicaraguans is not just that they give too little and ask too much, but that they can be as sharp as the famous fresh-water sharks of Lake Nicaragua.

The Nicaraguan is … a true Spaniard as far as individualism and a tendency towards anarchy is concerned. Like the Spaniard, he is practically ungovernable… The paradox is that in order to provide free democratic institutions and to allow the liberties of the subject to operate, the country needs a strong Central Government, which it has indeed had for the last 30 years.

When we think of somocismo, we tend to recall Anastasio, the last dictator of that name to rule Nicaragua. So it is refreshing to read an older account which both belittles the much-trumpeted (by the somocista faction) achievements of Anastasio’s forebears–on arriving Pinsent mistakes Managua for an intervening village–as well as tempering the millenarian dream on sale in the chiringuitos of the epigones and lackeys of the Castro dynasty. More ambassadors here.

I’ve been in the UK for a few days and heard a plug for this on Today, which, although still as good for my English as it was when I was marooned in the outer darkness of the Netherlands, now seems incredibly slow and unwieldy compared to stuff like Google News.

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