Begging in Granada



  • One of the more surprising and upsetting things in Granada is the beggars, and I don't mean the ones out on the street, those you would see anywhere and I cannot say that I see any more here than I would anywhere else in the world. I guess if I really think about it there are fewer here than I have seen in Europe and fewer than I have seen in other Nicaraguan cities but no fewer than I would see in the US and not nearly as many as I am used to from Texas or California cities. So that seems normal. No, what I mean is the beggars that come to your home and forcibly beg from you while you are in your home in your own space!

    This has to be the worst aspect of Granada. And it is not an occasional thing, if we keep the front door open to let the breeze through, as everyone in town does, we must get an average of five beggars a day. It could be someone visibly poor - we have learned to recognize the regulars and most do indeed seem pretty poor, or it might just be someone random walking by who sees you and decides to beg. I kid you not, normal people walking by will just stop and beg opportunistically as if it is the most normal thing in the world. Imagine commuting to work and seeing someone through their front window eating breakfast and if you catch their eye calling out "can I have a few dollars?" Then going on your way. It is surreal. And then there are the kids. Affluent private school kids or just any kids will walk up and randomly beg through your windows and doors. They are just bored kids around town doing this instead of playing, in many cases. Sure the city is loaded with the poverty stricken, it is disheartening, but these are not the ones that we find coming to our door. It's kids in fancy clothes that we know live in expensive houses who attend private schools that just stop by and ask for money when they get bored. And people don't just beg, they won't stop. You tell them to go away, they will stay. They will camp out. They will return. They will interrupt you while you are working, even when you are on the phone. They will act like they need water or food or directions, then start saying "one or two" meaning dollars. Some will even bang on the door and make you come outside to see who it is. Someone will try to push their way into your home or block the door.

    The begging alone is enough to not recommend Granada as a city for long term stays. It is a great city but the high density of expats and tourists has turned it into a beggar's paradise. One of the local restaurants has a full page explaining the begging situation, how bad it is and why you can't give money to the kids and where to give money to help through charitable foundations. It is becoming an epidemic in Granada because there is so much money to be made by harassing the tourists that people are quitting jobs and kids are dropping out of school because it is better to beg. The problem is is that it is kids who earn the most money so are often exploited and it leads to the problem that they earn their money when young and by the time that they are teens no one wants to give them money anymore but they have already given up their chances to go to school and have no job prospects anymore - by choice. There are even rising healthy issues caused by tourists giving away leftover food. It is the danger of too many rich tourists in a rather poor area. The disparity causes some serious issues. It is sad because giving money isn't the answer, but there are real people needing help, too. But the ones begging are not likely them.

    It's sad and it is frustrating. If you visit for a weekend the tendency is to just give them money in the hopes that they go away. It's just a day or two, right? But this is what fuels it. Then for the people who live here, it never ends. And it starts to shape the economy. The kinds of people you need to move into the city to change things start to avoid living there. The people who actually need to beg and need help cannot be identified and saved. The money and the assistance moves out. The poverty increases. There is no good answer.



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