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Migration in the Americas: US retirees flock to Nicaragua

"In the US, money and beauty are the power, but I am looking for something else," said Kathy Aley, originally from Newport Beach, Calif., who moved to Nicaragua in 2001. "I left because of the greed and the selfishness in that country. I worked as an aerobics instructor for the school district, but I tore my muscles. I have two daughters in the US … they are 40 and 32 years old. I live here with my eight dogs, 10 cats and my parrot. Every morning, I jog the beach up and down with my dogs and parrot. They need the exercise."

Photojournalist Kadir van Lohuizen traveled from the southern tip of South America to the far reaches of Alaska on the North American continent to explore migration in the Americas. What he found both supported and defied stereotypes, which he reported on a website and an app for iPad called Via Panam.

 “I came (to Nicaragua) on holiday in October 2000 and while I was watching the sunset on the beach, I knew I had to move here,” said Kathy Aley, now 64, a transplant from Newport Beach, Calif. “I need the warmth and the slow life.”

Kadir van Lohuizen / NOOR

Captain Zatara, 53, and Katy, 41: "It was our dream to sail around the world and live and sail in the tropics. We bought our boat in Washington state in 2003. She is a beauty. We came to San Juan de Sur three years ago and we wanted to make some adjustments to the boat … (now) we are rebuilding it from scratch. In the meantime Katy runs a massage salon, so we earn some money. I think it will take another two years to finish the boat. We have five children, one is with us."

Central America is a growing destination for moderately wealthy Americans looking to leave the rat race behind. In their search for quieter and less expensive places, some have chosen to settle in Nicaragua — the poorest nation in mainland Latin America, but also the safest, according to The Economist.

One such quiet and affordable enclave is the tranquil bay of San Juan del Sur. In addition to safe harbor for retirement, the location also offers a break from recession and politics.

Nicaragua was recently named one of the most favorable retirement destinations in the world.

Below are some stories of Americans who picked up and moved south for their retirement years:


Kadir van Lohuizen / NOOR

Fred Goldfarb, 60: "I am from the San Francisco Bay Area. I always had a desire for traveling, and in 2006, I came with my girlfriend to Nicaragua. She didn't like it, so that is where our relationship ended. I had a company in the US and in 2007 I bought 350 acres of land. With my business partner, we build environment friendly houses to sell. In 2008 the market collapsed, we are selling less now than before. I built this house actually to sell, but for the time being I live here. I don't like the politics in the US and the cost of living is very high."

Tom and Patty Lowy (55 and 62 respectively), from the San Francisco area: In 2004 Tom bought land close to San Juan del Sur. "I paid far too much … now we live here, in our gringonized house," he said. "We brought the TV chairs from the US. I earned good money in the US -- $400,000 a year -- I was a retail broker and I saw the crisis coming. We wanted to leave, we don't like the politics of the US, the Patriot Act, the propaganda from the mass media and the misinformation. Here is a safe place, safe for a nuclear war. We watch US television, but most of our friends are Nicaraguan. We believe we should integrate."

Kadir van Lohuizen / NOOR

Beverly Gene Marte, 74: "Everybody calls me BJ here. I came 10 years ago and I am from Walminton, Calif. I came on a yacht. It was a long trip from Florida, via Cuba, Cayman Islands, Panama Canal. In Costa Rica the yacht nearly sank, it took two years to fix it. In the end I made it to Nicaragua. I don't want to live in the US anymore. Obama ruins the country. Now I have my monkey, Cindy. Years ago I was photo model and I also worked for the US coast guard. The sea is in my blood."

Kadir van Lohuizen / NOOR

The tranquil bay of San Juan del Sur is pictured. Although Nicaragua hasn't had good relationships with the US over the last three decades, it is a popular destination for US citizens.

K. van Lohuizen / NOOR

From Colombians fleeing war to North Americans retirees moving to Nicaragua, a photographer's journey from Chile to Alaska explores both the expected and unexpected patterns of migration in the Americas

Experience the entire journey, from Chile to Alaska, by exploring the slideshow at right, the Via Panam website or by downloading the app for iPad.

More Photoblogs from the Migration in the Americas series:
On the run from water in Panama

Bolivia hopes for windfall from producing lithium for batteries

Mom works in US while family stays in El Salvador

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