- Where to Go
- The Best of Nicaragua
- Nicaragua’s Best Surfing
- Hiking Nicaragua’s Ring of Fire
- Nicaraguan Arts & Crafts
- Nicaragua’s Great Green North
- Sportfishing in Nicaragua
- Down the Río San Juan
- Nicaragua’s Celebrations & Fiestas
- Volunteering in Nicaragua
- Diving & Snorkeling in Nicaragua
- Managua’s Revolutionary Driving Tour
Granada has a history as long as colonial Nicaragua's, as it is in fact the oldest city in North America. Founded 1524 by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba on the edge of Lake Cocibolca, the Spanish built Granada strategically adjacent to the indigenous community of Xalteva, whose residents suddenly found themselves working for their new foreign “visitors.”
Granada grew quickly as a sort of trade hub; sailing vessels would navigate their way up the Río San Juan and across the lake to Granada. As a result, an affluent Spanish merchant class developed, largely of Veracruz, Cartagena, and La Habana origin.
From its beginnings, Granada was a symbol of Spanish opulence, an unsubtle show of mercantile success in the New World. The competing nations accepted the challenge, sacking and burning the city at every available opportunity (the English buccaneers were particularly effective).
After independence from Spain, Granada was the capital of Nicaragua each time the Conservatives took power (León was the capital when the Liberals won). As the Liberal-Conservative feud escalated, it was the Liberals who first called upon the American filibuster William Walker for support. He executed Granada’s most ruthless sacking, even by pirate standards.
Before he was eventually driven from Granada, Walker finally burned the whole place to the ground, and buried a symbolic coffin in the central plaza under a wooden sign that read, Aquí Fue Granada (Here Was Granada).
Despite the sackings and reconstruction, Granada remains little changed from its earliest colonial incarnation; if Córdoba were to rise from the grave today and walk the streets of La Gran Sultana as it is sometimes called, he would find it eerily familiar.
But these days, Granada is changing fast. Less influential than the old families these days is the influx of foreign capital, new ideas, and fast business. A decade ago, Granada was a “sleepy colonial jewel.” The hum of the Internet cafés, chic eateries, tour services, and trendy hotels indicate it has woken up.
© Randall Wood & Joshua Berman from Moon Nicaragua, 4th Edition