León is a major city in western Nicaragua and is
considered to be the intellectual center of
the country as well as a liberal hothouse. It is located about an hour away from Managua near
Lake Xolotlan and the Momotombo volcano. The city is the home of the National Autonomous
University of Nicaragua (1812) and an 18th-century cathedral, which is the largest in Central
America if you ask any Nicaraguan. The ornate cathedal was built by the Spanish from 1747 to
1860 to fit their grandiose taste and is filled with restored paintings, carvings and beutiful
architecture. The great Rubén Darío’s tomb is in the church and there is a museum dedicated to
him nearby. There is also a small plaque commemorating Rigoberto Lopez Perez who assassinated
General Anastasio Somoza Garcia. León is the transportation and cotton-trading center for the
surrounding agricultural region and its manufacturers include: furniture, shoes and leather
goods. The original city, which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1610 and is about 30 km from
the present location. It was designed by Juan Meco, who also designed the city of Lima, Peru, and is
being excavated. It can be interesting to explore. León, with its population of 101,000 people,
was the capital of Nicaragua until 1852 when it was moved to Managua for political reasons.
|San Pedro Cathedral in Leon, 1850 Source: George Squier, Nicaragua; its people, scenary, monuments, and the proposed interoceanic canal. Public Domain|
The city of Rivas is located on the 18 km wide strip in between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific
at the lowest point along the entire line from Alaska to the Patagonia (40 meters above
sea level). Founded in 1720, the city of Rivas was partially sacked during the civil war
against the Somozas, but it has been rebuilt and now supports a marine industry based on
shrimp, a certain variety of turtles and fish like pargos, corvinas, macarel, jureles, marlin,
and pez vela. The most important cultural item in Rivas is the Museum of Anthropology and
Natural History of Rivas. Rivas’ archaeological emblem is pre-Columbian ceramique. This
museum, which was destroyed during the war and was moved to the House-Hacienda "Santa Ursula"
contains a total of 800 native Indian ceramique pieces, 250 other pieces, and 180 taxadermic
pieces. George Squier and John F. Bransford conducted the first arcaeological studies in the
1800s and many other studies have since followed.
|Indiginous Indian statue. Copyright: Ministry of Tourism|
If peace, quite, and an escape from Managua’s suffocating heat is your wish, drive up into the
cloud forest and rent a little cabin at the Selva Negra resort area. The view is breathtaking
to say the least, as is the fact that it actually snows up there in the "winter."