Masaya: Not What I Was Bargaining For

Last Thursday, once class was over and we had consumed one of the always enormous lunches provided by our host family, Jeff and I hopped the bus to Masaya, a nearby town famed for its markets. Jeff had been before but he hadn’t really said much about them except that he’d bought his hammock there. From what the guidebooks said and what others had mentioned in passing, I was under the impression that the old market—the one most highly recommended—was a place where artisans from all over Nicaragua set up shop and sold their goods: handwoven hammocks, carved wooden figurines, ceramic bowls and vases, and much more. I was pretty excited because, even though I wasn’t planning to buy anything—the backpack is full enough as is—I love looking at crafts and talking to the artisans who make them. I was expecting an arts and crafts fair with Central American flavor.

Well, boy was I disappointed. What I found instead was a sterile building with stand after stand selling the same exact things. In fact, they weren’t really stands at all; they were more like little shops. And the people who ran them weren’t artisans, but shopkeepers. They didn’t really know anything about the pieces or have any experience working with the crafts themselves. It wasn’t at all what I expected; instead it was prettily packaged tourism.

So we walked through rather briskly, glancing at variations on the same thing over and over, and then took a walk through the town to a malecon (or boardwalk) extending above the nearby Laguna. Luckily, it was rather scenic, providing a bit of saving grace to an otherwise disappointing trip.

I think I once heard someone say that you can’t win them all. Turns out they were right. But since we seem to win way more than we lose, I guess I can’t really complain. Chalk it up to experience.

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