Saturday, March 10, 2018

Lovely Leon

After Managua, the Leon area (about two hours north on a congested road) is a breath of fresh air and a feast for the eyes. 
A few of the countless murals in Leon
Sharing a Peace Corps-authorized taxi with a volunteer we met the night before in Managua, our arrival in Leon was a delight.  (Because of the crime in Managua, Peace Corps has vetted a few taxis for PCV use when volunteers are in the city on official and unofficial business.)

Meeting up with Nati Zavala, a local PCV was a special treat and he highlight of our trip so far. We've known him since he was a six-year old at Richmond Elementary in Salem when I started mentoring him weekly.  He's been the son we never had, and he's been a phenomenal guide to Nicaragua and its backstory.

At different points, Leon has been the capital of Nicaragua, dating back to the Spanish colonial days.  It's been a breeding ground for poetry and the revolution. 
Cathedral de Leon.
Today, it's a university town filled with cathedrals, cafes, and brightly-painted adjoined homes on narrow streets.  It's also surrounded by beautiful volcanoes. It's what Managua could have or should have been.

We toured the Museum of the Revolution, originally the provincial headquarters that the Somoza regime commandeered for their HQ.  We hired a 62-year old veteran of the revolution who gave us a highly personal tour, based on his experiences.  Bullet holes where the Sandinistas were executed are still there.
Jose, our guide

Inside the Museum de Revolution.  A few
destitute veterans still live there

The revolutionary war from about 1956-1985 is still a big part of Leon's and Nicaragua's psyche, especially from 1972 to 1985.  Between that, two major earthquakes, the US supplying arms to prop up the corrupt Somoza regime, and a US trade embargo have taken their toll.  It's a wonder Peace Corps is even here.  But as the 2nd poorest country in the Americas (Haiti is #1), Nicaragua needs all the help it can get.

Mt. Telica at sunrise
The next morning we got up at 2:15, rode on a steep and challenging dirt road, then hiked for 1.5 hours to the rim of the Telica volcano for the sunrise.  It was spectacular and so worth it.

A view toward the southern volcanoes

Sulfuric gas from the rim  

Around 11:30 am we headed north to Nati's home and job sites.   He proudly showed off his stifling-hot home, and then we went to his three schools via a three-wheeled scooter cab and walking (Normally he walks and rides his bike.)  It was hot (100+), dusty, and the air was filled with ash from the sugar cane field burns.

Nati on his front porch

Before the hour drive back to Leon, we were treated to a HUGE traditional Nicaraguan dinner prepared by his former host mom in her humble home.  Kathy and I had an easier lifestyle 39 years ago in Malaysia compared to Nati's hardships. 
At home in a stifling kitchen

I'll write another post about this later, with more about the other PCVs we've met, including a delightful retired lawyer named Denise who dined with us tonight.

Part of his commute to a school

Today we climbed to the roof of Cathedral de Leon, the largest in all of Central America.  Then a visit to the Museum de Ortiz-Gurdian de Art filled with Central American art in two large haciendas.  Most of it was interesting, some of it was spectacular.

On top of the Cathedral de Leon
Our very nice and
reasonably priced hotel

Chilling after a 100+ day of sightseeing

A delightful dinner in a former convent with
Denise Hollingsworth, a retired attorney-turned PCV
We'll miss Leon.  On Sunday we begin our four-hour journey to Granada, a rival colonial town in a beautiful setting.


  1. I’m in awe of your travels. And the excellent photos are always a story as standalone memories.

  2. Thanks again for sharing your adventures, Ron. Wonderful photos, especially the volcanoes. It's good to see Nati... he looks very happy (following in his mentor's footsteps)!