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León, Nicaragua

Faces on Walls--Murals from the Sandinista Revolution in Leon, Nicaragua
Throughout León's colonial-era downtown, relics of the turbulent 1980's remain--the popular murals of the Sandinista revolution...

Nicaragua's second-largest city feels more like a laid-back town, and it's one of the best places in Central America to be a pedestrian. Baroque and neo-classical architecture anchor the streetscape, and the National University gives Leon a youthful vibe. Look beyond the traffic-light-less core, and a string of volcanoes defines the horizon. Women still carry baskets of fruit for sale on their heads as they call out in the shade of the tile-roofed buildings: "aguacate piña papaaaaaayaaaaa." (The downtown core hasn't yet been gentrified like Granada, Nicaragua or Antigua, Guatemala; León is still very much a city for its own citizens.)

Politics may be lively, but León is welcoming and friendly. If you're rusty on your 1980's Central American history, ask around; when traveling, faces on walls can tell a lot, if you know how to read them. Find a local face, make a friend, and listen.