The Middle Class
So often you hear that there is no middle class here (and over much of Latin America) or that it is very small. I have said this myself. Today I am feeling like we are just applying "Gringo formulas" to define the situation. I think there is an alternative.
The group of people that seem to be defined as middle class in the United States are those that have 2.3 children, a house in the suburbs with a big mortgage, a station wagon for going places with the kids and another car--both financed--and a lot of toys. They are also the people that work all day and when everything is done, about 50% of their income goes to takes--some think to support the poor, others think to support the rich.
If that is what you are looking for in Nicaragua to label as middle class then you are not going to find a lot of people that fit the definition. But, why should that be a realistic definition for a country where even car ownership in general makes little sense?
I think we can do better. So, I have just invented a new definition. I do not, however, own Nicaragua so my ideas are up for debate. So, feel free to disagree. Maybe the end result will be a better definition and a lot more understanding.
- Lower class--Someone who lacks necessities
- Middle class--Someone who has everything they need
- Upper class-- Someone who has more than they can ever spend or use
Before you beat me up for being too simplistic, I will give you the same ability to define lower middle-class, upper middle-class and such that exists in Gringolandia. I just am defining where to draw the first set of lines. And there will always be a debate of what are really necessities. I expect we can all agree on health (which will dictate such things as enough to eat, clean water and a place to sleep away from the elements). Education is always up for debate. That is, how much education should be free. Personally, I like the idea of "all you want' but I won't make that a requirement.
Let's put this into practice. Across the street I see a family with four kids. Some of them seem to have clothes, most of them seem to have a runny nose all the time and they don't look like they are eating right. Simple--lower class.
There are other families on this street that while they don't have a car seem to have everything the need. That is, their clothes fit and don't have holes in them, when their gas cylinder is empty they just go get one that is full and which they don't have a car they get to sherever then want by bus, cab, bicycle or foot. That sounds like middle class to me.
So, who are these upper-class dudes, anyway? That's me. I have more bedrooms in my house than people, I have enough food here for at least a week, I have an extremely expensive ($100--a common question) dog and will likely have a car soon. And what these people don't know about me is that I have hundreds of books (which aren't here yet), probably a dozen pair of pants, 50 t-shirts and, well, a bank account with more money in it than the average Niccaraguan makes in a lifetime.
Looking at my definitions here I realize there is a huge difference between my middle class and the Gringolandia middle class. In Grongolandia, middle class means that you get ulcers, have heart attacks and generally have to spend all your time being worried that in order to look richer than your middle class neighbor that you will have to borrow more money that you cannot afford to pay back. My middle class person is someone who can just live their life. I guess that explains why so many more people in Nicaragua seem to smile when you seen them.