If you’ve never heard of the ‘Cafe of Smiles’ (of Cafe de las Sonrisas), let me acquaint you.
This small cafe, situated in Granada is one of the more unique things to do in Nicaragua. A quiet haven away from the hustle and bustle of this chaotic city. Away from the blaring music, the horns of the chicken buses and the loud bartering in the market – and here’s why it’s so special. The cafe is run by (and for the benefit of) deaf mute people. This means that the entire staff never utter a word – never. In fact it’s entirely possible that you won’t hear anyone say a word for the whole time you’re there.
It’s the first cafe in the Americas, and 4th in the whole world to be run by deaf mutes. Run by Tio Antonio, the cafe is a way of integrating them into society and breaking down the barriers which face disabled people in Nicaragua today. These people who are unable to hear or speak would otherwise be begging on the streets, or if they’re lucky enough to have a family unit behind them, cared for solely by their family. This cafe gives them a way of making money, of feeling part of society and most of all it gives them dignity.
The menu is displayed so you can order in sign language, and there are some helpful pointers on the wall in case you find yourself unable to communicate. But don’t worry, you don’t need to be fluent in sign language, you just need to be willing to try, and if all else fails, a good old-fashioned ‘point’ works a treat. After all, this is the ‘cafe of smiles’, and that’s exactly what the local language here is.
As well as a selection of local dishes (most with beans – they do love their beans in Nicaragua!), they serve great breakfasts, shakes and of course that delicious local coffee.
Next door is a hammock shop, which employs around 50 staff, all of them deaf mutes. You can buy a hammock, or even have a go at making one yourself. I bought a beautiful chair hammock for US$35 for my garden in sunny London, and can’t wait for the sun to make a reappearance so I can use it!
They also have an enormous hammock (possibly the biggest in the world?) at the rear of the cafe. It’s a fun exercise to see how many people you can fit in at once – see my video below where we managed 17!! One of the great things about this cafe is they don’t take themselves too seriously. It’s the cafe of smiles, and that’s the way it’s going to stay.
Use the comments box below to tell me what makes you smile 🙂