Caponeras have been a staple of Sauceño transportation for around two decades. Caponeras are bicycle taxis for two to three passengers who sit in front of the caponero (the driver). Caponera is a term specific to Nicaragua that comes from the title of a Colombian telenovela (soap opera) that featured these taxis (see this clip). Some caponeras, as seen in the diagram below, used to be powered by motorcycles, but these have since been outlawed in Nicaragua as taxis because of the danger they pose to passengers that ride in front. A few of these types are still used in El Sauce for transporting goods. Instead, motorized taxis (or mototaxis) are now covered and the driver sits in the front.
Sauceños use caponeras and mototaxis in times where other forms of transportation are impossible, inconvenient, or uncomfortable. Typical passengers include children coming home from school during the heat of the afternoon, travelers riding from the bus station after a long journey, and people trying avoid walking in a heavy rainfall. Some caponeros also use their taxis to transport materials or sell goods, including one regular mobile vendor that regularly pedals a caponera full of bread around El Sauce, intermittently chanting, “El pan!”
Alejandro “Alex” Solano, an Enlace Project seasonal program assistant and interpreter, also owns a local bike repair shop and makes caponeras. Alex says that because many caponeras are hand-made, they differ in color and design of its components such as the roof. Some caponeros customize their bike-taxis with horns, lights, and sound systems, but generally mototaxis more often have electronic equipment. Alex sells his caponeras for around 6,000 Córdobas (~200 dollars). He says that many people can’t afford to buy a caponera, soinstead they rent caponeros from an owner on a daily basis. Alex knows someone who owns 84 caponeras that has a rental business. The rental cost is around 60 cordobas (~2 dollars) a day and a caponero can make around 150-200 cordobas a day (~5-7 dollars). Any taxi ride within city of El Sauce costs around 10 Córdobas per person.
Sometimes you might see upwards of five taxis along the main streets of El Sauce. Alex estimates that there are a few hundred caponeras in El Sauce. Be sure to try a caponera while you are in El Sauce!
Photo 1: Caponeras outside of a local store Photo 2: Two mototaxis outside of the Enlace Project Office
Photo 3: Infomation about caponeras in Managua http://www.noticiasnicas.com/2013/08/las-caponeras-moto-taxis-en-nicaragua.html