Leon – City of Revolution


To Nicaragua via El Salvador

Although we had loved Antigua, after five weeks we were getting itchy feet. We were ready to hit the road again. Our next destination was Nicaragua. We discovered that flights to Managua via San Salvador were the same price as a bus through Honduras and El Salvador. No contest! Well, in reality we aren’t sure if it would have been quicker to travel overland. As it happened, our connecting flight was cancelled. We arrived in Managua five hours later than anticipated.

Hostal Monte Cristi, Managua

We spent a night at a the Hostal Monte Cristi near the airport. It was an unusual place, where we met Monty the dog and a bunch of bunnies. The owners were really helpful – they picked us up at the airport even though we were five hours late. The next day their trusty driver took us to the bus station, where we caught a collectivo heading to Leon.

Leon’s plaza

Hot, Hot, Hot in Leon

For the next few days, we explored Leon under the scorching sun. It took a couple of days to adjust to the heat after the more moderate temperatures of Antigua. We stayed at a friendly family-run guest house which had rocking chairs in the courtyard.

Ku doing some work at our guest house

Meeting an Ex-Guerrilla

Gritty Leon felt like an authentic Nicaraguan city. Non-pretentious, it has a rich intellectual, artistic and political history. It was at the centre of the revolution in the seventies. As a matter of fact, one of our favourite experiences was visiting the Museum of Revolution.

The exterior of the Museum of Revolution

The Museum is run by a group of ex-revolutionaries who also live there. As a matter of fact, they are now fighting against the colonial building being turned into a hotel. It was a building that bore witness to many violent battles at the time of the revolution. In fact, we saw an abundance of bullet holes in the walls.

Exhibits within the museum

Glimpses of the building’s colonial past could be seen in the magnificent, but battered staircase. Although it was probably the most ramshackle museum we had ever been in, we nevertheless found it fascinating. Our guide was ex-revolutionary, Benito. He was a lovely man who had fought for his beliefs and had an intriguing story to tell.

Benito

Although Benito only spoke Spanish, we somehow managed to understand much of what he told us. He showed us a picture of himself when he was twenty with a group of fellow revolutionaries. Additionally, there were press cuttings and old photographs on display of those who had been involved. It was pretty amazing to be shown around by someone who had actually been part of the revolution.

Che Guevara mural at the Museum of Revoluction

Museum of Legends and Traditions

Another museum that we discovered in Leon was the Museo de Legendes y Traditiones. This was a rather bizarre place, which was once an ex-prison. Various torture practised had been implemented there prior to its transformation.

One of the figurines at El Museo de Legendes y Tradiciones

Displaying strange and rather disconcerting papier-mâché figurines, it was somewhat creepy to wander around. Furthermore, we never knew quite what freaky sight we were going to come across in the next room.

A statue of a rioter in the gardens of Museo de Legendes y Tradiciones

Exploring the Streets of Leon

Somewhat more conventionally, Leon has an impressive art museum with exhibits by many top Latin American artists. We also enjoyed climbing up to the roof of the cathedral for some excellent views of the surrounding volcanoes.

The Cathedral Rooftop
The courtyard at Centro de Art Fundación Ortiz Gurdian

Wandering the streets, we discovered some interesting street art, mostly relating to the revolution. Despite its rough edges, we liked Leon. It certainly provided us with a couple of unique experiences! Next stop – Granada!

Leon’s Theatre
Street Art

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Categories: NicaraguaTags: , ,

7 comments

  1. They love their colours and they look great. The buildings are old but yet they look proud.

  2. Great post. We spent a month in Nicaragua back in 2003. Sad to see what is going on there now.

  3. It looks like I need to add Nicaragua to my bucket list. But I better have my Spanish practice first. LOL

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