In Nicaragua, we have two seasons- wet and dry. The dry season runs from about December to April, and in May the first rains start to fall. As the rainy season progresses, the scorched, parched earth slowly turns green again. September and October are the height of the rainy season in Nicaragua. This year, as we come out of an El Niño cycle, the rainy season hasn’t been very heavy. However, over the past few days we’ve had some afternoon downpours that really live up to the Nicaraguan “winter”, as the rainy season is referred to in Spanish.
To give you an idea of what the rainy season is like, here is a list of five things people in Nicaragua do when it rains:
- Breathe a sigh of relief.
Especially in the first few months of the rainy season, rains are usually preceded by an oppressive heat that weighs down on you like a ton of bricks. As the rain gets closer, the sky turns overcast, a breeze begins to blow, and you can see everybody slowly come back to life; partly because of the cool breeze, and partly because they need to hurry and do what they need to do before it starts raining!
But apart from the physical relief that the rains bring, it also means rains for crops, which is a relief for both rural and urban dwellers. Nicaragua is an agricultural society, and the price of beans, rice, and corn (the three basic staples of the Nicaraguan diet) is directly related to the seasons. No rains mean lower production, which means that prices go up in the market. So while rain may mean a cancelled baseball game or a steamy ride on the bus with the windows up, no one is sad to see the rains come.
- Turn the T.V. or radio all the way up, or turn it off completely.
Most homes in Nicaragua have a corrugated aluminum roof, and if you’ve ever been under a tin roof in a rainstorm, you know you can barely hear yourself think! Even if the building has a ceiling, if it’s raining hard enough, it does little to mask the noise. There’s no use trying to talk or listen to the radio or T.V., so folks get quiet (and sleepy). One Nicaraguan friend, upon returning from the U.S., said that one of the most disconcerting things she experienced was stepping outside and seeing it had rained, but she hadn’t heard it!
- Run to take in the wash, or call home to tell someone to take in the wash.
Nicaraguan homes are very rarely left unattended, because though Nicaragua is the safest country in Latin America, it is still a very poor country, and petty theft is common. That means there is always somebody at your house, and when it starts raining, it’s that person’s job to run out and get the clothes off the line before they get soaked. If you work in an office in Nicaragua, it’s not uncommon to see women pull out their cellphones and call home to remind whoever is there to go take in the wash.
- In some rural communities, not go to school.
In rural areas, lots of roads and footpaths cross rivers and streams, and when those rivers swell because of rain, it can mean being cut off indefinitely. When we visit rural schools in the rainy season, often the teachers tell us that attendance is down because children simply can’t get to the school. The children who do arrive come in big rubber boots that are caked with mud, as they had to slosh through washed-out paths to make it to school.
- Write a poem.
Ok, so it’s not like all Nicaraguans pull out a pen and pad and starting scribbling sonnets every time it rains, but there are lots of references to rain in Nicaraguan poems. Poetry is an important part of Nicaraguan culture, and rain seems to bring out that poetic side of folks. Maybe because the forced cessation of conversation naturally leads to a contemplative state. The one that comes to mind is one by Ernesto Cardenal called Hora Cero. It’s a poem about many things – Central American dictators, U.S. fruit companies in Central America, the rise of the Nicaraguan dictator Somoza and Sandino’s struggle against him, the beginnings of the Sandinista Revolution – but there is a section where he talks about the rain. In two stanzas, he juxtaposes the burned, dry, dead world of April with the wet, green, living world that is May. In the case of this poem, the metaphor represents the April Rebellion of 1954. But when you sit through a Nicaraguan rainstorm, and all the other sounds of the world are drowned out, it’s difficult to stop the torrent of metaphors that come to mind.
If you’re interested in learning more about Nicaraguan poetry, consider coming on our 2017 Poetry and Culture Ecotour. Participants will attended three days of the Nicaraguan Poetry Festival held in Granada. This is a huge open air event with food, music, dancing, and, of course, poets from all over the world. But don’t worry – it’s in February, so it won’t be raining!