Humans of Nicaragua

Meet Edgar Gomez Colomer, an ambitious young family man that runs a tour company called Turissa-Nicaragua.

Nica Nuggets: Tell us about your family.

Edgar: I was born in Granada in 1977, so I’m 40 years old. I’m the third born of seven children. What we like to call a “normal size” family. I did my studies as Industrial Engineer. I got married in 2001 and have four children, two boys and two girls. I’ve worked in the family business for years until I started my own.

Nica Nuggets: What business does your family run?

Edgar: It started with my grandfather, he was a taxi driver. He had gone to the bank to get a line of credit so he would have access to money. Shortly after he got his line of credit, he won the lotto. A quarter of the winning lotto so now he could cover the line of credit and buy a chicken bus. He started a bus service run between the lake and the market. Then in the eighties he bought his second bus, a bigger one. There were a lot of people traveling to Managua for work and at that time he had one of the bigger buses around so he was asked to do that run. My aunts and uncles, when they got married, each received a dowry from my grandfather which was a big bus and a medium one to run as part of the family business. He actually still has one bus, he said that’s all he needs now that everyone is set up.

So, in 1998 after Hurricane Mitch, one of my uncles began a commercial relationship with the Chinese and through them purchased a 25 seat air-conditioned bus. No one had air-conditioned buses at that time and the bus was in demand and that led to new contacts and more requests for our service. After a couple of years, they went to Panama and bought several second hand buses. The family structure is set up so that each family has its own buses and its own bus lines or service. From 1998 to almost 2008 I was working with them. Around 2007 of 2008 I started to teach myself English. Since we had a lot of medical groups and Christian groups I got the opportunity to practice English.

One of my uncles wanted to expand the business to include buying cars and we negotiated with the Chinese but we waited a few years to see how the quality of the cars were going to be. During this period I was using the internet to do business.

Nica Nuggets: What language did you use to negotiate with the Chinese?

Edgar: In English. This was probably one of my biggest challenges. I was using Google translate or asking friends for advice in writing English so we could put this deal together with the Chinese. It also motivated me to learn English as well as I could. It took me over a year to put the deal together and I had to convince the rest of the family to back me up. Finally, I got the deal done and negotiated a good price and to my surprise the Chinese even gave me a broker’s fee.

This also led me to start a web site and page to promote tours for the family business and to set myself up also for my own business. I sent emails to organizations and slowly they began to respond, I went for interviews and some started to use my services. Since I didn’t have my own vehicles yet I asked family and friends to help me out. I also went to the bank and borrowed some money and slowly I paid back enough to be able to buy another vehicle.

Nica Nuggets: Is the majority of your business groups?

Edgar: Ja, I would say 90% naar 95% is groups and a bit of private transportation.

Nica Nuggets: What would you like to achieve in the future?

Edgar: I envision having a National Nicaraguan Transport company set up in all the major regions of Nicaragua.

Nica Nuggets: Explain to me a bit how the bus lines work here in Granada.

Edgar: They are all individually owned but people work in co-ops. Each co-op has its own area, its own bus routes. For instance the bus station near the old hospital, the co-op has been renting that land for over 25 years instead of buying it. My grandfather had proposed at one time to get together and buy it but no one wanted to invest at that time. The mindset is not to look too far in the future but to deal with the day to day so it’s difficult to convince people to change their ways and to invest for the future.

My family finally did convince their co-op to purchase the land they’re on now. We have 32 members and everyone has their piece of the plot for their vehicles.

Nica Nuggets: Do you find that Granada has changed in the last few years?

Edgar: Ja, yes, it has grown, just look at the all the hotels that have been built in the last few years. I’m not in the real estate business but I do have a good eye for properties, especially since I drive around so much and I would see a building and say to myself, “that would be a great spot for a hotel” and then a year or two later, someone builds a hotel.

Nica Nuggets: It may be a touchy subject but I would like to get your impression of the political state of Nicaragua.

Edgar: I like the history. I love my country, I want a democracy. As a business person it can be difficult to get ahead without connections. I also ran an online auto parts business. I would order parts from all over and the rules and regulations make it difficult to succeed. It is very challenging to start your own business and to grow

Years ago, the electrical power grid barely worked, we were on 12 hours on and 12 hours off. I remember the pulperias and stores couldn’t sell milk or meats. Some of the hotels would have these noisy generators but not everyone could afford a generator. The one good thing Ortega did when he came into power in 2007 was to fix the electrical grid.

Nica Nuggets: Do you personally know people that are successful?

Edgar: Ja, yes, but again, it’s all about who you know. It’s connections.

Nica Nuggets: Granada was known for its well to do families, can you tell me about that.

Edgar: Haha, well, let me tell you about this, I think that is history. Grenada, it’s known for having the Conservadores, they go far back in history. They derive from the terratenientes. According to history, the Spaniards left all the lands to 14 families. There’s a few well to do families but many left during the war, a lot of businesses closed down in Granada. Here in Nicaragua we don’t have a middle class, we have the rich and the workers. In Granada without tourism, it has nothing, it has no industry or manufacturing.

Nica Nuggets: Yet, I see a lot of people from Managua, Masaya and other areas that come to work here, why is that?

Edgar: They come mostly to work in construction, technicians, like electrical or engineers. This is what I see the most but a lot of people from Granada go to work in Managua.

Nica Nuggets: What future would you like for your children?

Edgar: In general I would like everyone to have access to better education. Along with a better education you become more conscious of things. Let me give you an example. Ten or more years ago, I didn’t know better about trash, garbage. As I’m driving around the country I became more aware of the problem of trash, but how you start to change your way of living is with yourself first and then teach the younger generation. I want to help preserve as much as possible our country for our children and grandchildren. I have a proposal to get a group of tour people to do talks in schools. I’m hoping that we can go to different schools every month and talk about the importance of preservation and cleaning up the garbage.

Nica Nuggets: That’s a great idea!

Edgar: Ja, I would like to meet with the tourism department in Managua and convince them to support our efforts. Get people in tourism involved. Teach the young people.

Nica Nuggets: Do you have any hobbies or something you like to do in your spare time?

Edgar: I was the BMX champion in 1994. I like extreme sports. Give me anything with wheels on them, like skateboarding or roller-blades. I was adventurous, still am but have slowed down. I want to be able to sit down with my grandchildren and regale them with colorful stories of my life.

Nica Nuggets: What’s your favorite food?

Edgar: Gallo pinto! What can I say? I’m Nica. I can eat it every day, three times a day.

Nica Nuggets: Thank you, Edgar.