Sunday, November 21, 2010

Leon, Nicaragua

Daryll writes:

Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America with an area of 130,373 km2.  Roughly one quarter of the nation's population lives in the Nicaraguan capital, Managua making it the second largest city in Central America following Guatemala City; and guess what, we have to ride through it to get to Granada, our next stop after Leon.  We had hoped not to ride through many of the capital city’s; however, thus far we have ridden through Mexico City, Guatemala City and more recently San Salvador to get to our destinations.  Hope this trend doesn’t continue.

The 1979 Sandinista revolution is indelibly etched on the national psyche, and Nicaraguans are living proof that political destiny can be commandeered by the people, in spite of the US government, who sponsored years of counter-revolutionary violence during the notorious Contra War.  Those years of brutal unrest, natural disasters and economic mismanagement have effectively crippled the country’s infrastructure.  Today, in spite of lasting peace and burgeoning foreign investment, Nicaragua suffers blackouts and water shortages.  Many towns lack paved roads, the horse and cart is widely used, and wood remains the principal source of fuel.

Popular means of transport
After drying out from the ride the night before, we had a leisurely ride to Leon and stayed with a Swiss couchsurfer who is working for an NGO in Leon doing mapping.  He also had an American couchsurfer (Andrew) stay while we were there as well.  It took a few stops for directions to make it to his place, but all the locals that we stopped and asked for directions were extremely friendly and helpful, which surprised me a lot. 

Andrew, Idriss & Angela
Leon is another Colonial town with some amazing architecture; however much of the city is run down.  In the Parque Central stands the Basilica de la Asuncion and legend has it that the plans for the Cathedral in Leon were switched with those of Lima, Peru by mistake and hence the grander church that was meant for Lima now stands in Leon.   Construction on the Basilica started in 1746 and wasn’t completed for another 113 years.

Basilica de la Asuncion

La Recoleccion
As we walked around the city, there were several murals dedicated to the revolution.

New photos added to the Nicaragua photo album.
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