Granada, Nicaragua. July, 2010. Salmon Rushdie’s book The Jaguar’s Smile does a good job of describing the almost magical atmosphere of Nicaragua. The colonial city of Granada is no exception: brightly colored horse-drawn carriages trod along the street, crumbling colonial mansions juxtaposed with immaculately restored cathedrals, bitter papaya seed smoothies, smooth flor de caña.
One feature of Nicaraguan geography that stands out above all others is the volcano. The skyline is seldom free of these fire-filled behemoths. This summer I was visiting my journalist pal Blake Schmidt, and from his place in Granada the ever-present mountain of fire, Mambacho stands tall, looking over the city. When Mambacho erupted about 20,000 years ago, Big Mama’s cone was split into myriad little pieces and the 365 Islets of Granada were plopped down in Lake Nicaragua.
These islets come in all shapes and sizes. Some are large enough for a bed and breakfast, a few have modest, plumbing-free shanties, but the most interesting islet is Monkey Island; a tiny islet about the size of an above ground pool in a trailer park, with a handful of trees and about 8 Spider Monkeys.
“AHHHHHHH, EL MONO VA A SALTAR!” And it did. Just as my friend Vanessa and I were approaching Monkey Island on our boat tour of the islets, a curious spider monkey decided to pay a visit to one of the groups of tourists. Lucy, as I later learned was her name, had a habit of getting nice and friendly with visitors. She jumped from boat to boat, touching who and what she pleased. When she leapt on me and Vanessa’s boat, the captain held us a scarred hand and warned us that she has indeed been known to bite. Lucy picked up my camera bag and it took every ounce of restraint to keep myself from snatching it back, lest she be tempted to hurl it into the lake.
I love how it looks like the people on the boat don’t even notice Lucy at all. All three of the visitors don’t seem to be scared or flinching: it’s just another day at Monkey Island. Compositionally I like the strong horizontal and vertical lines and of course the absurdity of a spider monkey nonchalantly interacting with a boatful of people.