Thursday, November 5, 2015

Wealth and Poverty: A Common Dichotomy of Nicaragua by Alex Schmiechen

The main tourist street in Granada, Nicaragua.

During my week in Nicaragua, the juxtaposition of wealth and poverty really struck me. According to one of the doctors who introduced us to Nicaragua, about 40% of the population lives below the poverty line, or on less than two dollars a day. Due to a relatively privileged upbringing, I had never really seen what this was like in person. I especially noticed the difference between the wealthy and the poor while walking around Granada and touring both public and private Nicaraguan hospitals.
            While in Granada we stayed at a luxurious hotel, which was located on the central “tourist street”. Lester, our guide for the week, told us that we could explore the city more if we wanted to, but that street in particular was an especially nice place to walk around. We took his word for it and spent the first afternoon exploring the plaza, restaurants, park, and market that were all located around the main street. The next day, we decided to investigate the city a little more, and happened to go a few blocks over to check out a local market. The difference in surroundings was staggering; we had wandered right into the poorer areas that bordered the tourist street. It made me realize just how oblivious we had been the day before, thinking that the rest of the city must be similar to the clean streets and freshly painted buildings of the main street. I had definitely not expected to find that amount of poverty one street over from a thriving tourist destination.
            I noticed this dichotomy yet again when visiting the public and private hospitals in Nicaragua. Thanks to government implemented universal health care, everyone has a right to receive free, quality health care. However, though people without health insurance are able to receive healthcare in the public system, the quality is a far cry from that received in the private sector. Many of the public hospitals in Nicaragua have long wait times, a lack of specialists, and limited quantities of medications. The private hospitals are pristine, have the most advanced technology, a plethora of specialists, and low wait times; these hospitals were two completely different worlds. Both of these experiences made me realize just how easy it is to be oblivious to the poverty of those around you if you are in a comfortable location. 

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