‘The Internacionalistas used to go to el Inter to cool off…’


From The Believer:

Managua heat was mean, and the Internacionalistas had to share the fans. Sometimes it became too much and we would split up and go hunting for air-conditioning. The one place we knew we could always go was the Intercontinental Hotel. This was a strange-looking building, constructed like a concrete staircase to the sky. We called it “el Inter,” and knew it as the hotel where the real journalists stayed—not the screw-ups with rock music and a tape-recorder—all the famous people from New York and Washington, D.C. who wanted to see the Sandinistas. It was the only place in town that never ran out of food, that hung on to its old-style waitstaff through the revolution (nothing is worse for the service industry than socialism), that was rumored to have a rooftop pool, sparkling sun chairs around it in a star (though none of us had seen it). Yes, el Inter was capitalism incarnate. We used it as shorthand for all that was wrong and greedy in the world. We secretly wanted it and felt guilty for it.

In ’72, Howard Hughes had been living up on the eighth floor when the great earthquake came, the one that took down the whole city, but left el Inter standing. The rebel Chamorro had shot a rocket from one of its windows at the most evil Somoza of them all, the second son. There’d been machine-gun battles fought in the lobby. There’d been assassinations. All the top military brass used to go there, smirk over drinks at the bar. Later, Somoza himself moved in, crouched through the barricade days before he fled the country. In 1979, Daniel Ortega stayed in those rooms at the dawn of the new order. Jimmy Carter was there while taking in the communist sights—and when George and I arrived a year later, the bellboys were still talking about it.

The Internacionalistas used to go to el Inter to cool off. It was an easy walk from the cluster of hostels, and any old Internacionalista could go over and sit in the lobby as long as you made a show of looking in the gift shop and being animated and didn’t stay too long or fall asleep. Then the security guards got to know you and shooed you out. George and I were eventually barred.

“Internacionalista”, Deb Olin Unferth, The Believer