The córdoba in Nicaragua: ¿cara o sol?

What are some common words and phrases in Nicaraguan Spanish about money and the local currency, the córdobá?

Courtesy of Emporium Hamburg

Courtesy of Emporium Hamburg

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:

A: ⚽ ¿Cara o sol?.

B: 🏈 Heads or tails?

No Nicaraguan 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.
🏈 I’m broke.

For this reason, when panhandlers try 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.

⚽ Beggar: Regálame diez pesos.
⚽ You: Lo siento, señor. No hay riales.

🏈 Beggar: Give me ten pesos.
🏈 You: I’m sorry, sir. I’m broke.

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. 

A: ⚽ ¿Cuánto cuestan estos zapatos?
B: ⚽ Cien varas.

A: 🏈 How much are these shoes?
B: 🏈 One hundred 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?

⚽ A: ¿Cuánto mide este terreno?
⚽ B: Son 10 x 50 varas.

🏈 A: What are the dimensions for this property?
🏈 B: It’s 10 x 50 varas, or about 8.4 x 42 meters.

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.
🏈 I don’t work for free: (Literally, the monkey won’t dance without money).

Lesson? Don’t monkey around and pay people for their services.

Currently, the US dollar is equivalent to 36 Nicaraguan córdobas.

Want to learn more Nicaraguan Spanish? Read the articles 20 Ways to Speak Like a Nicaraguan and How is Nicaraguan Spanish different from other Spanish variations?


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