Second day in Leon. Audrey and I went to the Cultural Center and later the Sutiaba Museum of Indigenous Anthropology which was about the size of my living room. Just goes to prove that size doesn't matter. They had lots of old artifacts and statues and they did a great job of telling the local history. After the museum, we walked around Leon, bought posicles, and sat in the park to people watch. We walked over to the old Guardia Nacional headquarters and then to see the church that the Somocistas bombed.
|Remnants of a church bombed by la Guardia in Leon|
It's crazy to imagine that Somoza would bomb his own people while they were attending mass, crazier still to think our government supported him! With our help, the Somoza dynasty plagued this poor country for decades.
Somoza was educated in the United States and friendly to U.S. interests. With the strength of the U.S. Marine-trained troops under his control, Somoza quickly consolidated power. Between 1936 and his assassination in 1956, Anastasio Somoza Garcia ruled as dictator of that nation. He was supported by la Guardia which was largely funded by the United States throughout its existence.
For over four decades, the Somoza dynasty ruled Nicaragua, amassing wealth and land. When the Sandinistas overthrew the Somoza dynasty in 1979, many members of the National Guard fled into Honduras, where they regrouped and formed an counter-revolutionary force known simply as the Contras. As with their previous incarnation the Contras enjoyed generous, if at times clandestine, financial backing from the United States.
|Somoza and FDR|
One of my favorite American presidents is FDR so it made me sad to learn that he had once remarked of the late Anastacio Somoza Garcia: "Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch." It seems like this attitude survived for decades and when Anastacio died, the U.S. continued to support his sons who subsequently became presidents of Nicaragua and would also make themselves useful to U.S. interests, while prospering at the expense of the Nicaraguan people.
Later, at the University we met the caretaker, a sun-beaten old codger with a friendly disposition. He liked us, so he took us on a little guided tour. He told us that the university used to be a seminary, then in 1812 it became the Real Universidad de la Inmaculada Concepción. It still looks like a church but the Sandinistas changed the name to the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Nicaragua. The old man was obviously proud of the place. He told us that the City of Leon has been around since the early 1500s.
"That's older than your country," he laughed. Yes, it is...pretty amazing.
|Guardia Nacional taken by the Sandinistas|
We left the University and I remembered that I'd promised Nancy back in Esteli that I would take her watch that had been running slow in for repair if I could find a shop. We went back to the marketplace where a man had a stand with a little cardboard sign that read "Se arregla joyería y relojes" (jewelry and watch repair). He offered to fix Nancy's watch and said he could have it done in an hour while we shopped, so we walked around peeking in all the stalls. I noticed a woman with several large, shallow baskets the size of truck tires spread out in front of her. Some had socks and underwear but the one that caught my eye contained a huge stash of birth control pills. I picked up one of the folding cartons and examined it. The pills were expired by nearly six months and had been sitting in the sun for who knows how long. I discreetly walked over to the shopkeeper and told her about the problem but she just smiled at me, saying "no, no, no," laughing at my ignorance while insisting they were still good. I walked away shaking my head, feeling sorry for the poor woman who had to rely on those pills for contraception.
|Open air market in Leon|
After about an hour, we went back to the watch repairman. He handed me the watch and we all looked at it until the minute hand twitched a couple of times. I paid him with the money Nancy had given me, but as soon as we left the market, the watch stopped again. We walked back to the stand and I had to argue to get Nancy’s money back. In the end, he did fix the watch; it doesn't run slow anymore because now it doesn't run at all!