León Viejo Ruins (World Heritage)

Nicaraguan literature

According to thefreegeography, Nicaraguan literature, is part of Latin American literature in Spanish.

Apart from the popular drama “El Güegüence o Macho Ratón”, which originated in colonial times and is based on Indian roots, the prehistory of Nicaraguan literature is not rich in important documents. At the end of the 19th century the poet R. Darío was Nicaragua’s first known literary personality, but achieved a continent-wide importance and is still considered the founder of Latin American poetry par excellence.

With the magazine »Vanguardia«, founded in 1928, a fruitful process began, the central figure of which was José Coronel Urtecho (* 1906, † 1994). The development led from the avant-garde movement to the »Generation of 1940« – Ernesto Mejía Sánchez (* 1923, † 1985), Carlos Martínez Rivas (* 1924, † 1998) and v. a. E. Cardenal  - who took a stand against the Somoza dictatorship.

The narrative prose in particular reflects the history of the country torn apart by civil wars and foreign interventions, v. a. the works of Hernán Robleto (* 1894, † 1969), Manolo Cuadra (* 1907, † 1957), Lizandro Chávez Alfaro (* 1929, † 2006), Sergio Ramírez (* 1942). During the Somoza dictatorship, many authors went into exile or fell victim to repression, such as Pedro Joaquín Chamorro (* 1924, † [murdered] 1978).

After 1979, E. Cardenal and S. Ramírez gained considerable international attention as ministers in the Sandinista government. The most important young authors include the poets G. Belli and Rosario Murillo (* 1951).

León Viejo Ruins (World Heritage)

The city of León was founded in 1524 and buried in 1609 when the nearby Momotombo volcano erupted. It was rediscovered in 1967. The ruins of Léon Viejo give a picture of a typical settlement during the early Spanish colonial times.

León Viejo Ruins: Facts

Official title: León Viejo ruins
Cultural monument: One of the oldest colonial settlements in America from the Spanish Empire in the 16th century; very well preserved, including valuable archaeological sites
Continent: America
Country: Nicaragua
Location: Leon Viejo
Appointment: 2000
Meaning: Exceptional testimony to the social and economic structures of the Spanish Empire

León Viejo: ruined city from colonial times

For centuries the ruins of the city of León Viejo remained untouched. The life phase of the once rich trading city was short: not even 90 years after the city was founded, the citizens left old León in 1610 and settled elsewhere. What remains are ruins that still give an authentic picture of an early Spanish colonial settlement in Central America. Since no more urban changes have been made here since the 16th century, there is excellent evidence of how urban life was played out during the colonial era. That is why León Viejo was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000.

León was founded on June 15, 1524 by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba (1475-1526). But the liberal conquistador could not enjoy life in his city for long. He rebelled against the Panama-based colonial governor Pedro Arias de Ávila (around 1440-1531) and was beheaded for this betrayal in 1526 in the Plaza Mayor. Five years later, León became a bishopric and subsequently developed into an important trading center for gold. Many wealthy merchants settled there. At its heyday, the city had around 5,000 residents, making it the second largest city in the Spanish colonies after Lima. But there were also dark hours in the history of León. The Spanish conquerors were known for their cruelty and repeatedly used the city as a starting point for campaigns against the indigenous peoples in order to subdue them. In 1551 the bishop Fray Antonio de Valdivieso was murdered – allegedly at the behest of the Spanish crown. Because his commitment to the natives of Central America was a thorn in the side of the rulers. It was not only this crime that made the population fear that the city would one day have to atone for its sins.

In 1609 it seemed so far: the earth shook. Fearing that the Momotombo volcano would erupt, the residents of León left their homeland and built a new city 30 kilometers to the west: today’s León.

However, León Viejo was not – as is often wrongly assumed – destroyed and buried by a volcanic eruption. However, the violent earthquakes in 1609, which were triggered by the volcanic activity in this region, caused considerable damage to the building fabric. In the decades and centuries that followed, the ghost town was buried under ash, volcanic rock and debris from Lake Managua, until finally nothing more suggested its existence. The basic structural substance of the city has been preserved to this day under the protective layers of rock and ash. But León Viejo is far from being “saved”. Experts repeatedly complain about the lack of security and restoration of the ruins, so that the city is once again threatened with decay. Alleta (1982), Joan (1988) or Mitch (1998) repeatedly caused considerable damage to the old walls.

For over 350 years, León Viejo existed only in documents and papers. It was not until 1967 that the ruins of the trading town were discovered and archaeologists began excavations a year later. They brought to light what a Spanish colonial city looked like in the 16th century. So their floor plan resembles a chess board. The city is laid out almost square, in its center on the north-south axis lies the Plaza Mayor, the main square of old León. This checkerboard pattern served as a model for many other Spanish colonial cities at the time, for example for the Peruvian capital Lima. To date, archaeologists have uncovered 18 buildings. Only the foundations of houses can be seen, including a few important buildings such as the Church of the La Merced Monastery and the Governor’s Palace, the walls of which have been partially restored. The remains of the city’s founder, Hernández, were found in the choir of La Merced in 2001 – alongside those of his executioner Pedro Arias de Ávila, who was known as Pedrarias the Cruel went down in Nicaraguan history.

The current city of León is around 30 kilometers west of its long-buried predecessor. With around 175,000 residents, it is the second largest city in Nicaragua and is best known as the country’s important intellectual center. It owes this reputation above all to the university, which was founded in 1813. In addition, León is the provincial capital and an up-and-coming industrial and commercial city. The five-aisled cathedral of the metropolis from 1860 is one of the largest and oldest sacred buildings in Central America.

León Viejo Ruins (World Heritage)