Wednesday, December 3, 2008

León; City of religion and revolution

It´s boiling in León. Boiling hot and incredibly sunny, with a clear blue sky. There are Christmas decorations for sale all over town but it´s impossible to believe this is December!

This cathedral dominates the parque central and is the largest in Central America. Yesterday we witnessed an incredibly crowded mass, where people were having to peer through the doorways to see in. It really shows how important Catholicism is here and it´s also evident in the large numbers of beautiful churches.

We arrived in León after a brief return to Granada and, though the colonial architecture has the same feel, this is a very different city. You can really feel the recent suffering experienced during the civil war and the years of struggle after the revolution, because there are images of heroes and martyrs on every corner.

The most famous symbol of the revolution is this man, Sandino, or rather, his hat. He actually pre-dated the 1970s insurrection by about 40 years, but his fighting spirit even inspired the main revolutionaries to call themselves Sandinistas.

There are still many murals around town depicting events in Nicaragua´s painful history and Sandino´s shadow can often be seen cast across them. We thought this looked pretty cool so decided to make shadows a bit of a theme in some of our photos, too!

As we were looking around, this lovely lady, Maria, offered to explain the symbolism of the murals. She´s lived in León all her life so is very knowledgeable and, thankfully, spoke very clear Spanish!

The martyr culture is very strong in León and spots like this, where four protesting students were murdered by the dictator´s soldiers, are tragically common throughout the city.

Maria managed to sneak us into a crumbling old building that was the scene of a very significant event in Nicaraguan history and, I´m pretty sure very few other tourists ever see. It was where the poet and revolutionary (that´s a very common combination here) Rigoberto Lopéz Peréz assassinated the first dictator from the Samoza dynasty and was then killed himself, becoming yet another martyr. Now it is a Sandinista office and almost entirely empty, but the bullet holes are still in the walls. Pretty atmospheric.

Rachel x


Rob Parle & Rachel Smith said...

Hola Nivia,
Gracias por las noticias. Estuvimos muy triste cuando salimos Boquete, pero nos gusta Nicaragua tambien. Saludos a la familia Bell-Miranda y esperamos que todos estan bien.
Rachel y Rob x

Anonymous said...

Leon looks like a fascinating place. It obviously still carries the scars of its unsettled past.

On a more cheerful note, I love the shadow photos.

Love Diane x