León, Nicaragua, Parque de los Héroes y Mártires de León
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Looking ahead in 'The Land of Lakes and Volcanoes'--a mural in León
León may be the second-largest city in Nicaragua, but it feels more like a laid-back town. The National University is here, yet the cobblestoned intersections are unencumbered with traffic lights. A dignified patina of age hangs over the colonial center...along with signs of its turbulent 20th-century history. You'll find murals scattered throughout León, including in the plaza adjacent to the 18th-century Cathedral. Painted in the late 1980's as a joint project between local artists and painters from Hamburg, Germany, it depicts a decidedly Sandinista version of the history of Nicaragua. For me, the most poignant portion is the end, showing two young children, hand in hand, flying a kite with the colors of the Nicaraguan flag, the ruins of war behind them as they head off into the idealized landscape with the nearby Momotombo volcano as its centerpiece...but the paint is crumbling... Hope needs constant maintenance; traveling through Central America, the troubled past is never far behind--it's painted on the walls all around, it seems. But faces still smile, and if you get to know the people, the landscape truly gets under your skin...
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