Granada is a well-known stop for tourists. I thought it would be a nice little colonial-style town...but it turned out to be a bit of a dump. The colonial-style buildings were still there despite the repeated lootings and burnings by English pirates and our good friend William Walker. It had a nice touristy section too, of course, but the rest was pretty rundown. Walked around for a bit after dark during the one night I spent there, and was greeted by chubby prostitutes soliciting, young kids begging, and older kids trying to strike up conversations for undisclosed motives. I just try to avoid them all.
The people do tend to treat you like a walking cash machine. But I just can´t see rewarding someone with money for bothering me. And the way I see it, their governments need to learn to deal with their own people. Not my responsibility. Of course, that doesn´t do much for the poor soul on the corner begging...but then I´m more into long-term solutions rather than temporary fixes.
As far as responding to the begging goes I still haven´t gotten my standard operating procedure figured out other than the not giving money part. I approach different situations in different ways depending on the beggar, time of day, neighborhood, etc. During the day I´m more likely to respond with words if kids are asking. They ask me for a dollar...I´ll put on a bemused expression and ask them for a dollar. This usually brings a pause, followed by words of surprise and then a lot of unintelligible chattering in Spanish. Entertaining, but this type of engagement has always brought more questions and attention. The better approach with kids is just a smile and a shake of the head...once they figure out you speak a little Spanish they will want to talk.
If someone asks me for money as I´m walking past their position or have already walked past I´ll almost always ignore them. Older people, women with kids...I´ll usually give them eye contact, put on a sympathetic expression and walk right on by. Middle-aged healthier looking men that beg or talk to me I´ll look in the eye just to let them know I´m aware of them and not afraid, but I´ll try not to challenge them with my eyes or expression...respectful acknowledgement. At night, I mostly just feign ignorance or deafness and keep moving.
I don´t mean to come off like I ignore everyone though, or treat them with contempt...most of the people, and especially the kids, I smile at and that almost always brings a smile in return.