Monday, August 04, 2008

La Gran Sultana

We arrived in Granada, Nicaragua, a few days ago, passing through the over-touristed and sterile climes of Costa Rica and leaving behind Panama’s rainy Bocas del Toro and its capital’s enchanting San Felipe district. Now in the land of Rubén Darío and Augusto Sandino, but also of Anastasio Somoza Debayle and the disgraceful pacto between the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional and the Partido Liberal Constitucionalista, we have found something lacking Nicaragua’s more affluent neighbor to the south: A country with a great soul and a sense of its own history.

Granada, a city modeled on its eponymous namesake in Spain and so elegant that it earned the nickname La Gran Sultana, skirts the edge of Lago de Nicaragua beneath the looming rise of the Volcán Mombacho outside the city. Lovely one-story Spanish adobe buildings front lanes on which both horses and automobiles roll by at a leisurely pace. Once burned to the ground by the American adventurer (privateer might be a better word) William Walker, the city rebuilt itself splendidly and remains a fine place to enjoy a sip of 18 year-old Flor de Caña rum or the delicious chocolates produced by the city of Matagalpa, just to the north. My novia and I have enjoyed wandering its streets in advance of several days of hard reporting work this week and a journey to the Región Autónoma del Atlántico Norte starting this weekend. A trip to the surrounding pueblos blancos yesterday brought us into contact with the noted spiritualist Andrea Peña Aguirre and the natural healer William Mena in the historic village of Diriomo. All in all, my first trip to Nicaragua, a country I have long wanted to visit, has already proven greatly rewarding from both a historic and aesthetic perspective.

High noon has arrived and the flâneur in me calls.

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