Monday, January 29, 2007

Cause And Effect

Two news items from two separate news agencies made me sit up, drop my oatmeal spoon and read more closely.

First up, Americans fleeing America:
In the latest twist -- some would say mixed blessing -- in Nicaragua's complicated relationship with the United States, this country's Pacific coast is turning into a hot new destination for U.S. vacationers and retirees, who are snapping up property faster than you can say "gringo."

For years, Yankees have lived part-time or year-round in Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama (where Donald Trump is building a sail-shaped condo tower, complete with a casino and a yacht club). But their embrace of Nicaragua is remarkable for many reasons.

Latin America's poorest country after Haiti, Nicaragua is an unlikely spot for comfort-loving U.S. citizens. And while Americans are popular here, not all Nicaraguans love the U.S. government, which backed the corrupt Somoza dynasty for decades before funding rightist Contra rebels in a 1980s civil war that killed 30,000 people.

Moreover, leftist Daniel Ortega, the ex-revolutionary whom the Contras tried unsuccessfully to oust, was just re-elected president after 16 years out of office -- though he now welcomes foreign investment and promises his government won't confiscate private property as it did during his previous term.

All that makes Nicaragua even more attractive to some adventurous newcomers.[...]

"I didn't want to follow in the steps of other gringos who go to places like Costa Rica," said ex-Manhattanite Joey Mintz, 25 who just bought a 11/2-acre plot and opened a hookah cafe here. "I wanted to see a country that was being reborn after years of war."
To quote Van Halen, "It must be just like living in Paradise".

Or is it?:
Named after a 17th century Dutch pirate, Bluefields is the largest town in the area. The coast is populated largely by Miskito Indians and descendants of African slaves. English and Miskito are the dominant languages, corrugated iron and wood the dominant building materials.

To hear authorities tell it, many of the locals work for cocaine trafficking organizations as lookouts, intelligence agents, and suppliers of gasoline for speedboats refueling on the run from Colombia's northern coast to Mexico -- the penultimate stop on the long cocaine trail to the United States.

"On the islands, entire communities provide logistics support for the narcos," said Captain Manuel Mora, chief of Nicaragua's Atlantic Naval Command. "Everybody is involved, one way or the other. Everybody."

That gives an edge to the traffickers, according to authorities, and so does the fact that the smugglers are better equipped than those trying to intercept them. "They have night vision equipment," said Mora. "We don't. They have satellite communications. We don't. They have vast resources. We don't."
Cause and effect:
"Pretty soon the gringos will have bought up all of Nicaragua, and we'll be like William Walker's slaves," said Jimmy Roy Carranza, 29, who fills water tanks for foreigners.

Walker, a U.S. adventurer, named himself president of Nicaragua in 1856 and tried to turn the country into a slave state. He was driven out a year later by rebels from areas including San Juan del Sur.
So Nicaragua is safe, but has a burgeoning cocaine trafficking that is funded, in part, by the slave labor of the First Nationers, and in part by American dollars, which are following the retirees and vacationers down to Nicaragua where they are fleeing to a low-crime country, top open hookah shops, where people can crack and blow their minds away.

One might very well ask why. I think we might have a clue in this bit of demographic news:
CHICAGO (Reuters) - For years, the center of Chicago's large and fast-growing Hispanic community was 26th Street, a mile-and-a-half strip of ethnic grocers, restaurants, bookstores and boutiques in a neighborhood called Little Village.

But that is changing. In a trend being repeated across the United States, Latino immigrants are eschewing their historic urban enclaves and moving out to the suburbs -- in some cases as soon as they enter the country. In the process, they're both living out the American dream -- and discovering its limits.
"There goes the neighborhood." One is tempted to mock the refugees from the Hispanic "outvasion". But it works in both countries:
Even some Yankees wonder whether it is almost time to raise the drawbridge. "Pretty soon," said Mintz, "it's going to get more American than America."