Ojos de Agua:

Nicaraguan Geopolitical Water nodes

The history of Nicaragua is changing abruptly. Unfortunately, our academic resources are deteriorated, impoverished and even distorted by the current regime. The injection of propaganda by the Sandinista political party led by Daniel Ortega and under the yoke of Rosario Murillo, has completely infected any state resource in Nicaragua. In each logo, in each government website, on the streets, on buildings, in schools where children are indoctrinated and especially on television channels, we have been saturated by “Danielista” propaganda, as a method of clinging to power and establishing a dictatorial dynamic on information platforms.

Beyond being natural resources rich in flora and fauna with unique geographic, geological and hydrological properties, Ojos de Agua also represent unspoken powerful geopolitical nodes that have shaped our demography, history, urban and rural memory, and economy. However, our natural resources are also evidence of government mismanagement, territorial displacement, pollution and economic segregation. Many of these individual issues are part of the ingredients of the current situation in Nicaragua. Understanding our neglect and the decline of our natural resources is necessary to build the foundations of what can be retaken at some point in the future to raise awareness and develop better management plans for these resources that are actually fair and dignified for the Nicaraguan population.

Nicaragua has an inherent relationship with water. Although there is no exact translation of the Nahuatl language, different versions opt for translations such as: "land surrounded by water" or "Here by the water." The Pacific Ocean represents the western border and the Atlantic Ocean the eastern border of the country. The Nicaraguan territory has two great lakes (Cocibolca and Xolotlán), around 30 recognized lagoons of which at least 11 are of volcanic origin. Coastal lagoons, bays and an artificial lake are other hydrological resources of the country.

Each “ojo de agua” in Nicaragua is an agent of change and highly determinant in shaping the communities around them. Our relationship with the water resources of our urban and rural centers define part of our cultural identity and our relationship with nature. Much of the attraction and uniqueness of our volcanic lagoons are their endemic properties that have made our flora and fauna evolve in unprecedented ways. This effect transcends to our human dynamics and is reflected by seeing aerial views of the urban developments around these hydrological resources.  Unfortunately, urbanization in areas surrounding lakes and lagoons has led to mistaken solutions like misuse of land, use of lagoons and lakes as garbage and human waste dumps and even (but rarely spoken) fake propaganda from Nicaraguan Governments that use the excuse of tourism to privatize natural areas that should be properly conserved and open to the public population rather than exploited by the private sector and foreign investors.

Ojos de agua are constellations that attract to their orbit a unique ecosystem, migratory animal species, human settlements, investments, tourism, international agents, political incentives, economic impacts, etc. It is because of this intersectionality of forces that these resources are geopolitical nodes that define a large part of our territorial dynamics.


Is it really progress having so many hostels, businesses and private residences on the slopes of the Natural Reserve Apoyo Lagoon? Is this an image of progress or socio-economic segregation? 

Tourism in Apoyo Lagoon has been a two-sided-story, a smokescreen that has been marketed as great works of progress by the Nicaraguan governments. The tourist monopoly in Apoyo Lagoon has been sold as something that stabilizes the country's economy when in reality has only privatized lands that should not be private; considering this area has been established as a natural reserve since 1991. The projects that are carried out in natural areas of Nicaragua cannot continue to be excused under the argument that they provide “jobs” for the community. The privatization of land in the Natural Reserve Apoyo Lagoon has only profited a very low percentage of the population. Owners of restaurants, hostels and private residences on the slopes of the reserve mostly belong to a specific sector of Nicaragua with a high social or foreign stratum or in some cases from close relationships with government forces. The real outcome of these unlawful activities is evident in the journey to the lagoon where communities are withdrawn from the lagoon. There is a high contrast between these communities that also have economic and infrastructural limitations and many of the new luxurious constructions on the shore and slope of the lagoon that, precisely because of their high cost, become inaccessible for most of the Nicaraguan population. A natural reserve should not be privatized and instead should be able to breathe from private tourism to open its resources to the communities around it.

The lack of regulations has directly influenced the architectural development of the area in which we see a clear social pyramidal hierarchy in the buildings that have populated the lagoon in previous decades and the native constructions with limited resources that have been relegated to adjacent areas. Despite some initiatives in past years to build public spaces on the area, there is much work to be done to balance the amount of private property that continues to appropriate the immediate shore of the Lagoon. It should also be contemplated a plan for public accessibility from urban centers to the shore of the Lagoon. Due to the lack of infrastructural plans and public spaces that are accessible and dignified, the population who want to visit the lagoon are conditioned to go to one of these private touristic places, since they have better conditions to enjoy this natural resource or sneak between informal trails to reach to a shore that has been appropriated by all these businesses around the Lagoon. As Nicaraguans we should be able to enjoy our own tourism at its best, a tourism that is suitable for everyone.


Pearl Lagoon is located in the Autonomous Region of the South Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua. It is the largest coastal lagoon in the country. In fact, Laguna de Perlas is not simply a lagoon, but a group of lagoons that interact with each other on this coastline that connects with various rivers in the area and flows into the Caribbean Sea.

This case study is totally different from Laguna de Apoyo where there is abundant urban growth as part of land privatization strategies. Here we find a rural area that has had small gentrification. Although, each one of the initiatives carried out in the Nicaraguan Caribbean were widely marketed and covered on propaganda by the Ortega government as great works of progress. Everything as a smokescreen that would later fall when the governmental abuse and injustices against the inhabitants located in the sector along the interoceanic canal, which they announced since 2014. This makes us wonder if the Ortega government's only interest in boosting tourism in the Caribbean was just another diversionary strategy to cover up the appropriation of land by the canal and the extraction of precious woods. However, long before the increase in corruption due to this project, the Caribbean Coast has been one of the areas in Nicaragua where there has been the most looting and corruption of natural resources at the hands of government forces and the private sector.

The rural character of Laguna de Perlas has been used as a tool to demise government corruption due to the lack of territorial visibility both literal and metaphorical, urban infrastructure and education in comparison to the pacific coast. Despite this, the same rural character has been the cause of incredible human, animal and plant evolutionary processes. The lack of urbanity and transport infrastructure and land use has made the inhabitants of Laguna de Perlas turn it into an infrastructural network by itself. This hydrological mantle brings together the most important commercial activities in that area where commercial and sport fishing supplies residences, businesses and tourism. Around it there are few roads and some highways built in previous years, however, the lagoon is the main transportation conduit, which in turn allows for better connections with islets and keys within the waterhole.

Finally, Pearls Lagoon is also one of the epicenters of pile-dwellings on water in the country. Despite the fact that the Caribbean area is the region of the country most affected by tropical storms and hurricanes, its inhabitants have transcended the ground settlements to extend the architectural domain towards the waters of the lagoon. These informal and organic buildings are found on the shores of the aquatic mantle where communities have settled. Its execution is full of creative and empirical solutions that have become more sophisticated over the years. At this point, the floating architecture of Pearls Lagoon is one of the most interesting attractions in the region. The buildings have various typologies depending on their use. In some cases, gazebos anchored to a port, in others, buildings with a few volumes and in other cases more complex formations, composed of several volumes that offer a unique experience to the water and the views of the area.

Pearls Lagoon represents a node of intense commercial, tourist and residential activities. Its pronounced natural and architectural characteristics inform the territorial dynamics of the area that can be further studied to facilitate access to urban resources that do not interrupt the harmony that its inhabitants have built and kept for decades.


Generations born in Nicaragua for the last three decades have grown knowing that our “Ojos de agua” are slowly dying. The excitement of visiting these incredible natural gifts gets to a bittersweet end once you learn that because of the wrongful urban planning conducted by Nicaraguan Governments, we are losing part of the greatness of our land. It has become a systematic problem, deep-rooted in our culture and lifestyle. The Ortega-Murillo regime uses their propaganda to present an intention of change. They have carried out what looks like projects that are meant to save some of these resources like the Sanitation Project in Lake Xolotlán (2012) and the Oxygenation Project in Tiscapa Lagoon (2019). The failure of these projects has been evident in a short time, simply because they approach this issue from the wrong angle. There cannot be a plan to sanitize our water resources is they don’t include a change in the planning of our urban settlements, the wrongful rainwater urban infrastructure with sewers that continue to pollute these resources and finally, but most importantly, we cannot save our lakes and lagoons if we don’t change our human culture. This last item is problematic for the current regime because it involves education. In order to create real change in our country we need to empower our communities with access to good free education. The Ortega-Murillo regime is aware of this and that’s precisely why they have hacked and infected the education system with their fake propaganda. There cannot be a significant change in Nicaragua, if the population doesn't change their mindset. What is the purpose of cleaning the lakes and lagoons? If the lack of education and proper infrastructure keeps polluting them? Each element is interconnected. The problem is that empowering the Nicaraguan population would mean the end of their dictatorship.

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