Discover cultural Queens

Nicaragua is a country with beguiling geography, from its two big lakes to the series of volcanoes along its spine. This means that someone learn a map probably won’t notice two punctuation-sized dots of land off its east coast: Little Corn Island and Big Corn Island. Upon disembarking at Big Corn airport, with its arrivals hall not much bigger than a bus stop, it becomes clear that this is a place that moves to its own tempo. The language turns from hurried Spanish to the slow, mellow tones of Creole. The quick shuffling of Latin American pop music switches to the gentle bounce of reggae on the radios. And, on taking the half-hour ferry ride from the quays of Big Corn to the shores of Little Corn, the pace of life shifts from ‘slow’ to the last rung above ‘stationary’. For though Little Corn technically counts as Nicaraguan soil, this is a bona fide Caribbean island. ‘Little Corn is a place where everyone says good morning and good evening to each other,’ says Winston Downs, aka Mr Winnie, mayor of Little Corn Island (population: 1,200, cars: 0), sheltering from a brief rain shower inside the island’s little community centre. ‘We don’t need roads here because roads only make people go faster. Why would we need to go faster here?’ Being barely two miles long and one mile wide, Little Corn Island is a place whose footpaths should be explored with strategic slowness. An amble in any direction will, within 15 minutes, see visitors arriving at a white-sand beach. The beach will, in all probability, be dotted with driftwood and coconut husks, tangled nets and beached fishing boats that haven’t known the splash of the Caribbean for generations. Very likely there will be people horizontal in hammocks slung from palm trees. At the centre of the island is a baseball field where horses graze, with a grandstand that some say is big enough to seat the entire population of Little Corn. At the southern end is the ‘Village’, which, being the only settlement on the island, doesn’t require the formality of being named. It is a place only slightly less peaceful than the rest of Little Corn: dancehall music plays on a Friday night, gospel rings out on a Sunday morning. The clink of pool games sound from beachfront bars around sunset and, at irregular intervals, a sudden cacophony of drumming comes from a nearby house. ‘Sometimes we play our drums for hours without stopping,’ says Jovan Emanuel. He’s sitting on his porch playing a djembe an instrument made from almond wood and taut goat skin, common to Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast. ‘Little Corn inspires me. When I touch the drum, I feel a kind of lightness inside me, I feel completely weightless. But, however loud we play, we never get complaints from the neighbours.