Getting Ready To Mine In The Northern Nicaragua Mountains

By Pat Werner   

Getting my gear together to go mining is a bit of work that is a lot of fun.  I am going into some old silver mines and am going there on horseback with at least one pack animal. While  equestrian riding is popular in Nicaragua among some expats and Nicaraguans, being a packer, or arriero, is largely the work of working people  in the mountains who never attend hipicos.  I made my first cross buck pack saddle  many years ago and used it to pack into the Absaroka mountains elk hunting.  And packing out elk quarters.  I kept my  pack saddle and made my favorite riding saddle at the Talabartería La Montura in Monimbo.  And a fine saddle it is.  I have ridden it for 20 years, got bucked off a time or two, but I like its seat or it likes me. So now I am oiling up both saddles, cuppers, breast collars, headstalls, etc, and lash cinch,getting ready to ride back to those mines, again. 

As for mining equipment, I am fine tuning my dredge and getting all the tubes, pumps, and gasoline motor ready to work.  Luis, my gardiner,  is working with me and in the picture he is putting it together to learn how it all works.

A curious thing I have noticed is that many of my friends, students, and professors, are better with computers than I am. But  I can type and use Word and have cranked out several books,  two in the last three months.  What amazes me is that an advance of  smart phones, internet, etc, seems to have atrophied mechanical skills, and things such as woodworking and leather working become almost mystical, like the use of a screwdriver. I have always worked with my hands, and like to make things and work with mechanical things.  I also note that the internet has certainly not improved people´s writing, and a cursory view of most blogs show imperfect grammar, lousy syntax, bad spelling, and the mixing up of many terms, such as its and it´s,  and there, they`re and their,  among other things.  Tweets do not help much in improving one´s writing.

Back to mining.  I am going to places I have not seen for many years, guided in part by some very old friends who are still there.  Juan de Grijalva, the great river in Mexico is named after him, was killed by the Indians in the northern mountains and is still up there. As is Roberto Compignon, ally of Pedrarias, who was awarded early mines, and was killed at one.  Gold bearing placer deposits were mentioned and described  in surprising detail  by Diego de Castañeda, Franciso de Castañeda, Gabriel de Rojas, all in the early 16th century, and Ephraim Squier in the 19th century.  They were all very helpful to me in finding streams with gold bearing sands.  But I had to do the work to  find the sources in obscure books and sources, mine them and find color, and then some.  Where theses streams are is for me to know.  Even my son does not know where I mine.  When my time comes to meet my Maker,  I will tell my son and  daughters, if I have the presence of mind.

 I send along pictures of what I am looking for: two ounces of Segovian gold from  my favorite mine; and a 1912 silver coin, probably made from silver from the northern mountains.  I also include  in the picture  a one pound silver lead chunk, and a conglomerate with silver crystals imbedded in it. Oh yes, there is also a lot of fossil wood up there, and I include pictures of two branches of deciduous wood, one cut and polished so you can see the tree rings.

There is much to do in Nicaragua if you have the interest and curiosity. Many retire here, drink spirituous liquors, smoke cigars, chase young ladies,  talk about things of little import,  and eventually die in their rocking chairs. I particularly avoid discussion of American cultural wars, which seem to me to be irrelevant to my everyday life in Diriamba.  I am reminded that when I taught English composition at the university level, I used to tell my students  that I could not care less about what their personal attitudes were or about their closely held beliefs, such as they were. I cared a lot how they put words together and if they could write a small essay and not provoke in me  mild nausea.   I choose to  do things, to wander the northern mountains,  try not to get bucked off my favorite saddle,  explore the mines, history, legends, and beings and things that stay just outside of the light of a campfire. I love the smell of the pines and oaks and sound of the rushing mountains streams. I have never met an expat there that was not traveling with me. And  I hope it stays that way and that expats stay at the beach.


  1. mike

    December 30, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    Article written like a true gold prospector and old trapper of the earlier years …. while the article rambled somewhat and was disjointed reading without a recognizable purpose or clear central message(s) …Expats come in many flavors and tastes and none can be grouped without being racist, but it did indicate an aversion that old mountain men of the West had towards white people and civilization (such as it is) it was interesting at the least …

  2. David Hart

    January 5, 2018 at 2:44 pm

    I have read several books on my Kindle lately that have some of the same grammatical errors you speak of. Sad but only to be expected when you imagine that the age of the authors of these new books I have been reading have had their mind buried in the internet or cell phone texting most of their lives.

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