Humans of Nicaragua

Vibrant single mother and business woman, Heydi Jarquin is a partner at Colonial Villas in Granada with Erick D’Alessandro. Colonial Villas is a real estate and rental management company run by the dynamic Nicaraguan duo.

Nica Nuggets sat down with Heydi to get her story and to see how she got to where she is today. Born and raised in Masaya and still living there today, she commutes every day to Granada.

Nica Nuggets:  Tell me about your family.

Heydi: I have no brothers or sisters and live alone with my daughter and our pets. I always wanted to be in Granada, when I finished college in Managua, I got job offers to work there but Granada was always in my mind.

Nica Nuggets: Most people would choose to go to work in Managua, why did you pick Granada instead?

Heydi: It was the feeling of the city. Years ago when I was younger, I would walk the city for hours, look at the big doors, the arches and dream of myself being in one of those colonial houses, seeing the inside of those houses. I was studying English since I was a little girl, I was always attracted to learning the language and pictured myself conversing at ease with someone in English.

About three months ago I was driving back to Masaya from Granada and I thought to myself “this is it”, this is what I always wanted to do, I made the choice of giving up Managua and higher salary for being where I wanted to be. Masaya is different, it’s where I live but for work, I prefer Granada.

Nica Nuggets: What was your first job?

Heydi: My first job was as a translator for a couple from Belize. My English is not perfect now but better than it was then when I met the couple. I learned a lot, their accent was different so it took time to adjust listening to them. It wasn’t easy and I was with them for six months. That’s how it all started. After that I began working at a real estate company. I was in charge of all the accounts, banking, bookkeeping, appointments and paperwork. It was a good learning experience, I didn’t know how to make a bank wire transfer so it was one those things I learned to do. Many times small banks in the U.S. didn’t know how to do wire transfers to Nicaragua so I would have to explain it to them. Sometimes my boss would tell me “call the bank in the U.S.” and I would think, my English is not going to be good enough but I did it. Another big difference between working in Granada rather than in Managua was the flexibility in the work hours. If there was a family emergency or something I had to get done, there was never a problem to take the time off, you just can’t do that if you work in Managua. Here in Granada it’s a much more relaxed work environment.

Nica Nuggets: Then came the big move to open your own business, how did that come about?

Heydi: The real estate company I was working at changed ownership and Erick and I decided to open up our own company. I was scared, but it was a good scare. Everything was going to be the same, we would do the same work as before, the only thing that was going to change was the location but it still was a big step. Even back at the previous company, I was the first person that people usually spoke or had contact with so I had to deal with the problems or people yelling at me.

Nica Nuggets: How do you find men relate to women who are in business? Do you ever run into problems?

Heydi: Hmmm, I used to. Once you become more confident in yourself, it shows, and you feel the energy when someone is confident. As a woman I had to speak louder and put on a long face, even though that’s not me but to deal with people that yell at you. I was yelled at so many times.

Nica Nuggets: Give me an example of why someone would yell at you.

Heydi: Electric bill. When people rent a house they are responsible to pay for the electricity. They leave everything on and then when they get the bill for $500.00 and they call me up, start yelling at me as if it’s my fault. I have to stand up for myself and deal with them. I think women have the ability to communicate better than men and often, men see that as a sign of weakness but it’s not, it’s being smart. In the end when you stand up for yourself even the people that can give you a hard time end up being friends with you.

Nica Nuggets: Your clientele seems to be mostly foreigners, is there a reason why local people don’t use real estate agencies, they seem to usually put up their own for sale sign.

Heydi: Real estate is a relatively new thing for them and paying an agent a commission is not in their mind frames. It takes time, effort and work to find the right buyer and seller. At times, the legal documents are not in order or proper and so many things can go wrong. It’s a cultural thing that will change slowly in time.

Nica Nuggets: What are the changes that you’ve seen in Granada over the years?

Heydi: Properties being renovated. I remember 15 or 16 years ago sitting in front of the Hotel Dario on Calzada and it was an empty, old, dark, run down building and I could see that one day this building would be restored to its former glory.

Foreigners coming in and starting up non-profits places like Feliz Carita, Puedo Leer and also, animal shelters which were not part of the culture or consciousness but has made a big difference. A lot of positive energy, new businesses, new working opportunities for people from Granada, Masaya and Managua.

Nica Nuggets: What’s in the future for you, where do you see yourself, say ten years from now.

Heydi: That’s a hard question. As long as I’m happy doing what I am doing now that’s probably where I would see myself in ten years.