MANY years ago the Nicaraguan córdoba coin had the face of Francisco Hernández de Córdoba on the front and the sun on the back. To make a decision of little importance, then, a coin was flipped and the interested party had to call: ¿Cara o sol? It is the Nicaraguan Spanish version of: Heads or tails?

No córdobas? Ways to say you’re broke

If you offer a product to a Nicaraguan and he doesn’t have a córdoba to spare, he might respond with: “Estoy palmado.” This means literally: “I’m all palms.” The idea? It basically means, “I’m broke.” Since beggars are common in the streets of Nicaragua, when they are trying to get cash off of you, just respond with: Estoy palmado.” It will definitely throw them off!

Another common response for the cashless is: “No hay riales.” The rial was an old coin in Spain, but this is another common objection to any product offering.

Although the main currency of Nicaragua is the córdoba, many times the individual units are referred to as varas. If someone tells you that a product costs veinte varas, he means twenty córdobas. 

Unusual property measurements

Curiously, if you buy property in Nicaragua, most measurements are not given in meters or feet, but rather, in varas. A vara is equivalent to about three feet or 84 centimeters. If someone offers you a manzana of property, this refers to a section 100 varas by 100 varas, or roughly, about 1.73 acres. How about those apples?

Since Nicaragua’s economy is the poorest in Latin America, don’t expect anyone to do anything for free. In fact, when it is assumed someone is willing to perform a freebie when in fact he isn’t, a common retort is: “Sin dinero, no baila el mono.” That literally means: “The monkey won’t dance without money.” And neither will the people!

Currently, the US dollar is equivalent to almost 35 Nicaraguan córdobas.