Two Cities of Nicaragua
by Steven Allan
For much of the 19th century, two conflicting political groups contested for power in Nicaragua: the liberals, based in the northwestern city of León, and the conservatives, based in Granada to the south. The country's capital rotated between the two cities, shifting with changes in power, whether by elections or by war.
León and Granada might be at opposing political extremes, but they are matching twins in their architecture. Spanish colonial mansions, cathedrals, churches, and houses adorn the streets of both cities.
This colonial architecture followed the historical progression of styles established in Spain, but it adopted indigenous elements in the Western Hemisphere. The main Spanish colonial centers were in Peru and Mexico, but the Spanish style occurred throughout the region. It flourished until the last quarter of the 18th century, when neoclassicism gained preeminence in Latin America.
Key elements of Spanish colonial architecture include asymmetrical building shape, spiral columns and pilasters, porch entries, arches over doors, wrought-iron grillwork, Renaissance motifs, ornately carved stone or wood details, courtyards, heavy-tiled roofs, and plain stucco or plaster finishes.
Old Granada Reborn
Granada, founded in 1524 by Francisco Fernandez de Cordoba, stands on the northern shore of Lago de Nicaragua. Granada is said to be one of the oldest cities in the Americas, and, with a population of 58,000, it has retained its charming colonial character. >>>
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The facade of 18th-century cathedral Iglesia de El Calvario in León, Nicaragua illustrates scenes from the bible between two red brick bell towers.
Photo: Steven Allan
The baroque facade of the Iglesia de La Mercad in Granada, Nicaragua was originally built in the 16th century and restored in the 19th.
Photo: Steven Allan
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