Viva la revolución: Politics, poetry, painting and passion in León

roya almously
Mon, 2018-10-15 11:06

DALLAS: I’m standing in a dimly lit room with a wiry,
grey-haired gentleman. He is gesticulating wildly, a manic energy
in his eyes as he shouts at me in Spanish. Flies buzz around the
damp air. Every so often, my intense interlocutor waves an
outstretched limb in the direction of some torn black-and-white
photographs, sticky taped to the peeling paintwork, which appear to
have been printed off the Internet sometime in the 1990s. I just
parted with $2 for this experience. Needless to say, I don’t
speak Spanish.

“Come,” he says finally in English — a perplexing
acknowledgement that my revolutionary comrade has understood my
linguistic predicament for the duration of his 15-minute tirade —
and leads me up a dusty staircase to the building’s roof.
“It’s safe,” he adds, as we clamber onto the single buckling
sheet of corrugated iron that constitutes the roof of the Museo de
la Revolucion. The person-sized rips and tears, slashing open a
visual trail all the way to the tiled floor below, prompt me to
wonder otherwise.

The view however is, as he predicted, “magnifico.” Below,
the intoxicatingly grungy city of León, Nicaragua, unfolds — a
canvas of intense activity furrowing the multi-hued, faded fringes
of this once-glistening colonial outpost, weathered and wrinkled by
its own storied past.

León served as the logistical and spiritual center of the
liberal Sandinista movement which deposed the Somoza dictatorship
in 1979, as this edgy, grassroots museum — and its seasoned staff
of former revolutionaries — no doubt attest (to Spanish speakers,
at least).


But even without the surreal museum welcome, this is living
history, still fresh and felt. Following the US-backed Contra War
of the 1980s and an embezzlement scandal which toppled the
rightwing PLC party, the Sandinista’s socialist FSLN have been in
power since 2006 and the city maintains a wiry political edge to
this day, as evidenced by a recent wave of anti-government

Even the most oblivious holidaymaker couldn’t fail to clock
the loud graffiti, political sloganeering and locals arguing at
café tables into the wee hours. The contrast with the cleaner,
droller, and much more touristic colonial twin and Conservative
stronghold Granada is palpable. Both cities have their charms, but
I’m clearly leaning toward the individualism and restless,
visceral energy of León.

Whether you’re a museum person or not, León offers a wealth
of diverse exhibition spaces noteworthy and novel enough to
constitute compulsory viewing. The Ortiz-Gurdián Foundation Art
Museum, one of Central America’s greatest galleries, offers a
stunning snapshot of modern and contemporary art from Nicaragua and
beyond. Spread across two sprawling, restored colonial buildings
punctuated with wide, airy courtyards which offer welcome relief
from the midday heat, even the uninitiated will find solace in this
diverse collection of colored canvases.

Also obligatory is the Museum of Folklore and Legends, an
eclectic exhibit too kooky to be true. Dedicated to the region’s
mythology, a series of themed rooms presents life-sized
papier-mâché dolls playing out scenes from local legends and
Leónese folklore, including the mockery of “original colonist”
La Gigantona, housed hauntingly inside La XXI — a former jail
used to torture pre-liberation Sandinistas.


Meanwhile, literature fans should not miss the Museo Rubén
Darío, the former home of the celebrated poet known as the father
of the Spanish-American “modernismo” movement, eerily preserved
with period furniture, personal possessions and spread out over a
traditional courtyard home.

After the sightseeing is done, stay out in the open: León is
inarguably at its most compelling after dark, when the streets
electrify and the fierce intellectualism and independence of
Leónese locals overpowers the passing dumbfounded backpackers.
Festivities spew onto the streets spiraling northwest from Parque
Central and its UNESCO-recognized Our Lady of Grace Cathedral.
Cafes sit at every corner, debate is lively and music is infectious
— the sound of impassioned voices rising ever-louder as dusk
darkens and Latino grooves intensify — until finally, even the
most potent politicos get up, abandoning argument and succumbing to
the beat of this fascinating city.

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Source: FS – All-Travel destinations-News
Viva la revolución: Politics, poetry, painting and passion in León