Meals on Wheels in Rivas

by John Griffin
Spring/Summer 1996 InGear

Adan de Jesus Solís Vilchez and his wife Luz Maria start off their day even earlier than most Nicaraguans. Being up and working by 4 a.m. enables them a few hours free from the hot tropical sun and humid air.

Adan prepares for lunch delivery in Rivas

Adan prepares for lunch delivery in Rivas

By 5 a.m. Luz Maria has finished making the last of the sandwiches, tortillas, fruit cups, and custard puddings that Adan will pack onto his modified Huffy BMX bicycle. The last item he loads onto his bicycle before leaving is a large thermos of sweet black coffee. By 5:30, when Luz Maria has already begun working on the day’s lunchtime special, Adan is plying his heavily laden cycle through the crowds at the Rivas bus depot where the first busloads of the day from Managua and Costa Rica have already begun to arrive. The adjacent marketplace is also in full swing and Adan competes for road space with swarms of other cyclists, small traders pushing carts piled high with vegetables and tropical fruits and the occasional loose pig.

Adan will proudly show any curious customers the clever modifications which have enabled him to convert his Huffy into a roving restaurant. By welding pieces of an old Harvard bed frame together, he has fashioned an extra-wide rear rack capable of carrying two medium-size coolers and a pair of burlap panniers at the sides. When not in use vending breakfast or lunch to Rivenses, Adan says there is ample room to carry his wife or one of his two children. In front, Adan has made good use of the heavy-gauge foot pegs that American kids use to do stunts with and attached another wide rack with room for yet another cooler. All told, Adan can serve up an ample meal, including beverages, to as many as 15 customers from just one bicycle load.

Before acquiring their bicycle two years ago from the Rivas Asocación Desarollo Comunitario (ADC), Adan and Luz Maria eked out a living by selling cold drinks from an unsteady wheeled cart pulled from the front. With it, they were limited to customers in a tight radius around their home. Now with the added mobility afforded by the bicycle, Adan is able to easily triple that radius. Extending his market area threefold means a similar increase in Adan and Luz Maria’s daily earnings. By his own estimates Adan says that the bicycle, together with all of the improvements he has put into it, has paid for itself in less than three months.

With demand for Luz Maria’s prepared foods seemingly unending, Adan has recently begun to look into ways to build a small trailer to tow from the rear of his BMX. When asked what the trailer would be used to carry, Adan responded that it would become Rivas’s first mobile barbecue.

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