Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Colonial Towns

Iglesia San Francisco

¡Adios! I´ve spent the past week in the first two cities established by the Spanish here in Nicaragua. First, I went to Granada, where I spent some lazy days walking around the streets, admiring the colorful buildings and soaking up the ambience. It´s a great place for relaxing, walking and just hanging out. I picked up a book about the Sandinistas and have been trying to educate myself about Nicaragua´s troubled past. At some point I hope to be informed enough to write a little about it here.

On Saturday I met two Costa Rican guys with a car who offered to drop me in Masaya, a local market town, on their way to Managua. In the end we spent the day together, exploring the market and then taking a little driving tour of Managua. The capital was not at all what I expected. It has no real city center and really only one or two tall buildings. It was levelled in 1972 by an earthquake and never really rebuilt. I was really surprised to find it so...boring.

Now I´m in León, Granada´s long-time rival. It was originally the capital of Nicaragua, but the León-Granada feud became too bitter and the capital was moved to Managua to quell the bickering. In the 1850s the two cities were at war, and when León lost to Granada, its government decided it needed help. It invited William Walker, a Tennessean who had already failed in his attempt to annex part of Mexico to the U.S. as a new slave state, to come down and fight against Granada. Walker conquered Granada and set up a government there but was chased out pretty soon. He left, burning the city behind him. He didn´t stop there, though; he tried again to conquer Central America but was eventually executed for his ambitions. (It´s all about manifest destiny. Read more here, if you´re interested.) Anyway, in the long-term, it looks like León might be falling behind. Each of the cities has its own charm, but Granada is a little more lively, a little bit newer and well-maintained, and perhaps a little bit more cosmopolitan. I like León, though, and I´ve met a bunch of really nice people in my hostel. Yesterday we went to the nearby beach, Las Peñitas. Once again, my hopes of learning to surf were dashed, this time by the sheer force of the waves and the strength of the currents, which made it hard enough to stand up in the water, let alone on a surfboard. A beginner like me needs nice calm gentle waves to learn on.

Either tomorrow or the next day I am taking off for the Corn Islands in the Caribbean, and so will be without internet access (or heck, even electricity) for a while. Stay tuned for my next post in a week or so.