The News from San Juan del Sur

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In last Friday’s article, Nicaragua rising: War-torn image gets a tourist makeover,” USA TODAY gives us yet another travel piece from Nicaragua’s happenin’ southwest corner. The reporter, Laura Bly, asked Randy and me to help plan her research trip; she carried both of our books during her trip and recommends our site, GoToNicaragua.com, in the article. Bly’s article covers all the required topics, scenes, and imagery for a San Juan del Sur–based Nica travel piece, but does not mention the big Valentine’s Day murder trial of an American there.

This is an important story for gringos living abroad in Nicaragua. There is a great deal of contention behind last week’s guilty verdict for Eric Volz, a Nashville native and the creator of El Puente travel and culture magazine who has been living in San Juan del Sur for several years. Volz, along with San Juan del Sur resident, Julio “Rosita” (a local pit-faced punk who’s been ripping off tourists, including me, since they first began arriving there ten years ago), were sentenced today to 30 years in a Nicaraguan prison for the brutal murder of a young local woman. Volz’s friends and family have launched a concerted effort “to ensure that Eric’s innocence is recognized,” petitioning the US and Nicaraguan governments and holding a “Bridge to Freedom” benefit concert in January. Keep an eye on Outside magazine, which should be running its own San Juan del Sur–based “trouble-in-paradise” feature article in an upcoming issue.

San Juan del Sur has seen its fair share of excitement — and gringos — in the couple hundred years of its existence as a (mostly) quiet fishing village. From the 19th century gold rushers who traveled between New York and California via Nicaragua, to the latest wave of gold-digging property pimps, to the mellow sets of surfers and wanderers who’ve been coming since the mid-’90s; San Juan is a unique and beautiful place to visit. And for the village’s 18,000 or so Nicaraguan inhabitants, it is their home, and it is changing.

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