The Other Canyon

Good morning from Westminster, MD!

Hotdogs- they have never struck me as more than a food of convenience. I have eaten my fair share of them over the years, but I have never gone somewhere because of them. In fact, I have often tried to avoid this mystery meat with the exception of backyard cookouts. However, I would come to understand that I have never truly been hungry.

El Cañon is a place that is unknown to most of the world, Nicaragua included. When referring to this small community, most Nicaraguans assume I mean El Cañon de Somoto, a much more well known canyon in the northern region of Nicaragua. After explaining that it is a small community on the outskirts of Managua they are quite surprised. More often then not, people do not know that a community exists in this canyon off of the South Highway.

The obscurity of El Cañon is not limited to its physical location. A community created in the midst of a coffee farm following the Sandinista Revolution in 1979, El Cañon is a picture of intergenerational extreme poverty juxtaposed with the wealth center of a country.

High unemployment rates, rampant teenage pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, and makeshift homes are just a few of the obvious signs of poverty in El Cañon. Unfortunately, this is not a unique description in Nicaragua. El Cañon is one of many communities suffering from the effects of intergenerational extreme poverty. In some ways El Cañon is better off than other communities I have come to know in Nicaragua.

Being poor is one thing. Being poor and overlooked is an entirely different story, and sadly the story of many impoverished communities in the world. El Cañon and many other poor communities in Nicaragua have not escaped this reality. There are many reasons for this, but in the end the results are the same- the rest of the world keeps moving forward while the people of these impoverished communities continue the cycle of brokenness and suffering. Ignored by the rest of the world, places like El Cañon remain the clearest picture of hopelessness.

It is in the middle of this brokenness that I learned that a hotdog is more than a hotdog. More on this next time.

– James Belt

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