- 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
The short-lived first city of León was a Spanish settlement founded by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba next to the indigenous village of Imabite on the shore of Lake Xolotlán in 1524. The Spanish were lousy neighbors. They immediately began to enslave the Imabite and doled out cruel punishments: Many natives met their ends at the jaws of the Spanish attack dogs.
The old city was abandoned in 1610 when Volcán Momotombo erupted. They relocated alongside the indigenous village of Subtiava, which over the centuries was subsumed by the growing commercial center of León.
León was the capital of Nicaragua during Liberal governments several times before 1852. It has also been both a university town and a hotbed for leftist thought since colonial times. The Sandinistas found ready supporters here in the 1960s and ’70s, and Somoza retaliated ferociously, even torching the central market and strifing peaceful demonstrations.
In September 1978, Sandinista forces attacked key locations in León, including National Guard installations at the famous XXI building. In response, Somoza bombed the populations of both León and Chinandega, and tortured or executed anyone suspected of sympathizing with the Sandinistas.
Sandinista troops took León on June 4 after two days of vicious battle whose bullet holes remain to the present, as does local sympathy for the FSLN.
© Randall Wood & Joshua Berman from Moon Nicaragua, 4th Edition