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World Right Side Up: Investing Across Six Continents by CHRISTOPHER MAYER

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Chapter 4

Nicaragua: This Side of Paradise

When my nine-year-old daughter Charlotte heard I was going to Nicaragua, she frowned and said, “No fair!”

Nicaragua used to be just another faraway place, an abstraction. But one time, my wife and kids got to come with me. We stayed at a house in Rancho Santana, a little slice of paradise on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. For the kids, the days consisted of playing on the beach or in the pool and having a good time.

Now Nicaragua means something entirely different to them.

The gaps between perception and reality make the investment world go round, too. The perception is that Nicaragua suffers from its past. Nicaragua ha sufrido mucho, as the saying goes (“Nicaragua has suffered a lot”).

After 41 years of living under the oppressive Somoza dictatorship—supported by the United States—the Sandinistas came to power in 1979. (The Sandinistas named themselves after Augusto Sandino, a rebel who led the resistance movement against the U.S. occupation of Nicaragua in the 1920s and 1930s.)

The Sandinistas ran the country in the 1980s and Nicaragua devolved into the usual state of communist enterprises. It was a mess.

One of the books I read during a recent trip was My Car in Managua, a lighthearted look at living in post-revolutionary Nicaragua in the 1980s. Author Forrest Colburn, who was a frequent visitor and lived in Nicaragua for a year, tells many engaging vignettes about what it was like.

For example, the Sandinistas nationalized the country's ...

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