León

León, Hamburg’s partner city, introduces itself:

Its people, history and economy, how to get around where there are no street numbers.

 

León, Hamburg’s partner city.

The powerful cathedral can be seen from a distance, and seems to reside above the city. It is said to be the largest and most beautiful cathedral of Central America and a meeting point one cannot miss, located in the center across from the town hall. In addition to this cathedral the visitor will notice many church spires which speak to the town’s former importance as the capital of the Spanish colony.

León is Nicaragua’s second largest city with 150,000 inhabitants and is located about 80 km east of Managua near the Pacific Ocean in the middle of a large, dry plain  bordering on a range of active volcanoes in the country’s interior. It is the center of the most important agricultural region of the country, contributing about 80 % of Nicaragua’s agricultural exports. Sugar cane, bananas, rice, sesame, soy and peanuts are grown here.

In order to find one’s way around a town without street names and street numbers the people of León employ a simple method: Since the streets run west to east and north to south in a rectangular fashion one looks for a reference point, say the cathedral or the post office. From there on out one counts the city blocks going north-south or east-west. Directions are given to the taxi driver like this: Please take me from the church, La Recollección, three blocks north and 2 and a half blocks west.

The region of León has good road connections to other parts of Nicaragua. Its large roads have good tarmac for the most part, and there are gravel roads in the smaller communities. The downtown and the rural areas are well supplied with regular bus service. A bus trip in the city costs 3 C$, about fifteen Euro cents.

There are only two climate seasons in the region of León, the dry season and the rainy season merge. From May on there may be a sprinkle of rain, and starting in June the precipitation will come down as torrential downpours and rain storms. When the sun comes up between six and seven the merchants have set up their stands on the busy markets. This is when we have lunch in Germany, about seven or eight hours later. The sun sets between six and seven PM, and it grows dark fast. There is no dusk.

© 2011 An article by Gerd Schuman