Carrying rum into Nicaragua is like taking tea to China. By a stroke of luck though I decided to buy a bottle of Ron del Abuelo at the Costa Rican border with my last banknotes. It’s not that this Panamanian rum is any better than the excellent Nicaraguan Flor de Caña (‘Flower of the Cane’), but there is a widespread boycott on Flor de Caña at the moment. You are not supposed to buy it due to some ongoing dispute about how this massive family-owned conglomerate (which also controls most of the coffee…and all of the Toyotas) has been treating its cane-field labourers.


There are also two main beer producers here: Toña is said to be the beer of the worker and the Sandinista and Victoria is frowned upon in some circles as the beer of the bourgeoisie. (Just to complicate matters Victoria is actually a far tastier beer than Toña, whichever side of the fence you are sitting on).


I was out shopping for a party in Managua and was struggling to weigh all these angles up. I’m not politically minded at all but everybody else in Managua seemed to have very strong opinions. Like many of my generation I grew up thinking that ‘War-torn Nicaragua’ was the name of the country – it was decades before a news-report finally referred to the country simply as ‘Nicaragua.’ These days Nicaraguans are among the friendliest and most easy-going people in Central America and it is a relatively trouble-free country to travel in but the Nicas fought for a long time for what they believed in and such partisanship dies hard.


I didn’t want to seem to be deliberately making a point by buying that strong, tasty (rightwing) beer and the delicious and smooth (but oppressive and elitest) Flor de Caña. I figured that a ratio of 6 Toñas to 3 Victorias more or less satisfied my own political sensibilities…and ought to more than assuage my thirst.

Flor de Caña virtually has a national monopoly on rum but there is, inexplicably, one other manufacturer that seems to have slipped through the net. So I bought a bottle of the fiery looking (but actually pretty ineffectual) Ron Plata and, on my way to the check-out, I picked up some Coca Cola to mix it with.

It was one of the most cautious shopping experiences I have ever had. It was only when the party was underway that I realised I was the only one to mix my rum with coke…that ‘icon of capitalistic Gringo colonialism.’