This is the city where the devotion of the Nicaraguan festivity called "La Purisima", in honor of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, emerged at the end of the 17th century. It takes place between November 28th and December 6th. During this festivity, most “Leoneses” (name given to the city inhabitants) have prayers and songs to Virgin Mary, and in every home, gifts are given to the visitors, such as fruits, drinks, sweets, etc. This beautiful activity ends on December the 7th with “LA GRITERIA” (meaning shouting), where everyone goes out to the streets to visit all the houses that have a shrine to honor Virgin Mary and shouts: “Quién Causa tanta Alegría?” (Who causes so much Joy?), and the people who live in that house answer: “La Concepción de María!” (The Immaculate Conception of Virgin Mary!), and they give gifts to the visitors like those offered during the 9 days prayer before the Immaculate Conception day.
The first city founded in Nicaragua named León was established in 1524 by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba and is located 30 km away from the current city. From this old colonial city known as “León Viejo” only the ruins remain, due to the eruption of Cerro Negro Volcano in 1610 which buried the city. In León, colonial buildings are preserved, one of them is the beautiful and majestic Cathedral of “La Asuncion” (name related to Virgin Mary Assumption to Heaven). Its atrium is decorated with impressive lions and in front of it, the city´s Central Park, also decorated with lions, is located. It was declared a World´s Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2011, in addition to León Viejo Ruins and El Güegüense.
In the basement of this Cathedral are the tombs of Nicaraguan famous people, the most importan tbeing Rubén Darío, called the Prince of Castilian Letters. There are guided visits to the Cathedral for tourists and they can also enjoy the wonderful view of the city, colonial architecture (more than 16 churches, old houses, that have been remodeled and are now used as hotels or restaurants), and its museums: Rubén Darío Archive Museum, Ortiz Gurdián Art Center Foundation, Coronel Joaquín Arrechavala Museum of Legends and Traditions and Adiact Museum. Other attractions are the beaches of “Poneloya” and “Las Peñitas”, where tourists can enjoy their warm waters and rich cuisine. Juan Venado Island also offers diversity of plants and wildlife, and we cannot forget to mention the volcanoes of the “Cordillera de los Maribios”, where foreigners and locals practice sandboarding in the Cerro Negro Volcano. León is a wonderful city, completely worth visiting!
Writen by Ana Margarita Darce
Relocation Specialist, LARM Nicaragua