Posted by: Alex MacGregor | July 23, 2012

Managua: Because Nica’s Capital Deserves a Post Too

Managua is, well, not a tourist attraction. It’s an ugly, sprawling, polluted, and dangerous expanse of lowrise structures without anything resembling an interesting, walkable city center.

But if you spend enough time in Nicaragua, you’ll have to spend some time in its capital. Particularly if you’re planning on flying Delta, whose only flight arrives late at night, and returns to Atlanta early in the morning, making a night in Managua all but inevitable.

This view over Managua’s city center shows why tourists find it so objectionable. There’s just no downtown to speak of–whatsoever. Every single time you move around you’ll need to take a (potentially dangerous) taxi.

It’s not Managua’s fault things turned out this way. In 1972, the city center was almost completely flattened by a magnitude 6.5 earthquake. Puerto Rican baseball star Roberto Clemente, who died in a plane crash on his way to deliver aid to Managua after the quake, remains a national hero.

Still, like other cities that have been destroyed by earthquakes (such as Skopje, Macedonia; and, regrettably, Port-au-Prince, Haiti; and Christchurch, New Zealand in the modern era), Managua was changed forever. The city center was never rebuilt, and its cathedral lays in ruins to this day.

The silhouette of Sandino, a Nicaraguan who fought to end the US occupation of the country in the 1920s, looms over downtown. Like the museum in Leon, this monument is also built on a former political prison.

If Managua has a center, it’s probably Metrocentro–a high-end shopping mall that anchors an area of offices and international hotels.

Looks just like America, huh?

Here’s something you wouldn’t see in America, however: a soft drink called “Rojita” (“little red girl”). It’s kind of surprising Pepsi can get away with owning this decidedly un-PC brand and seems to avoid any real backlash from Native American communities.

Managua’s new cathedral, and quite possibly its most visually interesting building, is located right next to Metrocentro.

Metrocentro is also the stage for much of the country’s political drama. If huge protests are happening, they’ll probably be at Metrocentro. And big political events happen a lot, completely putting the entire country at a standstill, since all transport suddenly focuses on bringing people to the capital to participate in protests or counter-protests.

This year, the occasion was the 33rd anniversary of the 1979 Sandinista Revolution. We were there the night before the anniversary (to catch the aforementioned early morning Delta flight), and it was pretty crazy. Young people marching all over the city in giant groups, shutting down roads unpredictably.

Transport, needless to say, was a complete disaster, even on the night before the anniversary.

We settled into bed in our heavily-guarded hostel for the night, getting a good night’s sleep before the early morning flight back to the USA!

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Responses

  1. […] were the most interesting and unique places to wander around in the city. China isn’t like Latin America, where each house is a mini-fortress, protecting against the brutal culture of violent crime that […]

  2. […] Metropolitan Cathedral, like that of Managua, is a spectacular modern […]

  3. […] be considered a tourist destination at this point in time. (I made the same recommendation about Managua a couple years ago, but we’re talking about a horse of a different color […]

  4. oh my god! stop being so white-first world-country-american !!!!

  5. […] seemed quite nice from the glimpse I got of it: a far cry from Nicaragua’s rather rough capital. A ton of commerce being conducted […]


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