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León, primera capital de la revolución

NICARAGUA | Wednesday, 12 February 2014 | Views [598]

Leon is where we have decided to spend a bit more time than our usual 2-3 night stay. We´re here for a week so Arnold can chill a bit and I can have more spanish lessons and do some volunteer work. After the beautifully restored Granada, Leon looks a little bit run down- the big cathedral, the pride and joy of not just Leon but all of Nicaragua, could certainly do with a paint job. But the interior has recently been done up and work has just started on the outside too, and plenty of slightly faded but still colourful houses line the streets.

Leon is a university town and full of young people. It´s the most chilled place in Nicaragua so far. Even the market place and street vending is more chilled than elsewhere, and though there are plenty of tourists in Leon, it feels perfectly safe to walk anywhere as we blend in completely with the locals. There are only a couple of real touristy  places such as  the french bakery where they sell espresso and  baquettes with goat´s cheese for instance- not a single local to be found here! Apart from that, Leon has miraculously achieved the seemingly impossible: locals and tourists actually mix!! Arnold and I stayed at this great hotel, Via Via, which had a bar at the front with a pool table where Arnold played with a few local guys; at night there was a local band playing for a room packed with locals and backpackers alike.

Alcohol in Nicaragua is ridiculously cheap and they make a very fine rum, Flor de Cañe, which is sold everywhere for only a few dollars a bottle. We saw many locals at the pub sharing a bottle- they just get a few glasses, a bucket of ice and some limes, and they are set for the night. Arnold actually bought a little bottle the day we arrived in Nicaragua so we can have a nip in the afternoons. Though for my brother´s birthday we splurged and drank a trago each of the excellent 12 year old. I don´t normally drink spirits but I have to say it´s quite smooth and tasty.  

It was very nice to spend a bit of time in one place and even to have a slightly normal routine again. In the mornings I would be off to my one-on-one class with Maria Elena a very lovely local teacher who spoke not a word of english. Class was in a courtyard of a church centre, where the local pastor and pastora would be doing things. I found out that in the afternoons they provided meals and daycare for a small group of very poor kids, and so we donated some school equipment  to the cause. After four hours of struggling in spanish I would head back and meet Arnold at the hostel or at a cafe somewhere, and then we would try and see a bit of Leon in the blazing afternoon sun (it was 35 degrees everyday we were there). 

Leon has got loads of interesting things to see. It has the best art gallery of all of Central-America, set in a beautiful house with lovely shaded courtyards (though I am not sure how the paintings are preserved, hanging outdoor in that heat). It has the Ruben Dario museum, Nicaraguas most famous and loved poets- poetry is a big thing in Nicaragua and apparently all school children are taught his poems.

Then there is the Museum of Revolution, in another grand and dilapidated building where battles were fought. The place is run by former revolutionaries, now old man without a pension keeping the flame alive and getting a bit of money in this way. And so we were led around the place by Commandante Uve, who told us that at the age of 17 was given the task to infiltrate the then dictatorship government. It was quite a tour, completely biased towards the Sandinists- he would go over all the names of the famous revolutionaries shown in the pictures and then later on he would point them out and ask us what their names were.  At one point we were on the balcony overlooking the central park, where he explained he had been during one of the conflicts, shooting away. They won the revolution and have in power for most of the time since- though there had been talk of corruption during one of the more recent elections. Another election is coming up this year and the country is full of banners and flags and graffiti promoting the FSLN (Sandistina Front of National Liberation) candidate and current president, Daniel Ortega. Who knows what will happens?

 

 

 

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