Day of the Dead, Not Very Lively – Léon, Nicaragua

We really didn’t deserve as long a break as this, but there were a few factors at play: we had just been robbed, so, like, we can do whatever we want; also, we had to deal with the fallout of said robbery, which included asking for a replacement credit card, filing an insurance claim, and fixing R’s sliced pannier. We had to coordinate the receipt of the replacement card and a few other items with our arrival in our next destination, Managua. We had contacted Monica, the mother of DJ, who we met in New Orleans, and arranged to stay overnight with her in the capital. Initially, we were just reaching out to another American who generously offered to put us up along the way. After two robberies, however, our stop-over with her has become essential. We need a secure address to have all of our replacement credit cards, etc. sent to and the timing worked out about as well as one can say about the timing of a robbery. But we had to get all of our mail lined up before we headed into the big city, and so we made ourselves at home in Léon for a few days.

We had heard good things about Léon from fellow travellers and felt pretty comfortable right away. It isn’t super beautiful, although it boasts a lively central park, which is home to the Cathedral of Léon (full name: Real e Insigne Basilica Catedral de León Nicaragua, or Real and Renowned Basilica Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary), the largest cathedral in Central America.

Also, I just hang out on rooftops. Like Spiderman.

The numerous universities in town secure the requisite number of cafes, cheap eateries, and nightlife, although we did have some trouble finding good food in our area. Basically, Léon is a totally normal city without a huge tourist presence and was a great place for us to recover and regroup. I’m not sure if there is a lack of ‘must-see’ sights for tourists or if we were just in a lazy state of mind, but we didn’t see a whole lot outside of the aforementioned Cathedral and the bizarre Museum of Myths and Legends. We did, however, enjoy our lazy stay, do our laundry, and make a stab at updating this blog.

Myth or Legend?

A mural in the courtyard of the museum

Just as we got motivated to get out of town, we realized that our departure date was going to fall on the Day of the Dead, which is a big deal in Mexico and some other parts of Central America. We weren’t sure what would be going on in Léon, but a few local ladies that we talked to told us it would be worth our while to stay and check it out. On the morning of the holiday, we got up early and headed over to the two cemeteries about a 15-minute walk from our hostel. We had expected a bit more of a festival atmosphere, but the excitement was limited to a string of vendors outside the cemetery gates, all selling the exact same thing: buñuelos. Buñuelos are fried dough balls topped with honey and are commonly served in the Day of the Dead. We dutifully ate waaaay more than we needed to to be able to say that we are familiar with buñuelos. The thing is, they’re really not very good, or at least not any better than other methods of serving fried dough (I’m not a hater of fried dough by any means, but these kind of missed the mark). Luckily, we treated ourselves to the local cacao- not to be confused with chocolate milk- at several points during the morning. We wandered around the cemetery, watching the parade of families bringing bunches of flowers and picnics to the gravesites of departed family members. Young boys with big machetes patrolled the walkways, offering to cut the grass and tidy up neglected gravesites for a small fee. It was a nice enough way to pass a morning, but much more personal and low-key than we’ve heard other celebrations in Mexico and Guatemala can be. We were glad to have stuck around to see what it’s like, but this particular holiday is definitely not for tourists. Unless you are a sucker for donut holes.

This party is kind of dead. Is that okay to say?

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One Response to Day of the Dead, Not Very Lively – Léon, Nicaragua

  1. M's Mom says:

    I read some of the comments on the the hyperlink for the Museum of Myths and Legends. Was it really as creepy as the people who posted said?! Enjoy the rest of the time in Leon. I just read the other day that it is a wonderful place to retire to. Maybe I will check it out!
    Love, Mom

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