Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Granada Photo Essay

Granada looks a bit like Antigua would if the Consejo didn't exist, or was that much more pelaverguista in its manner of protecting the place.*

Often referred to as Nicaragua's 'colonial gem', much of the significant architecture dates from the immediately post-colonial period when Granada was vying with Leon for supremacy in this land. (Managua, midway between the two, ended up as the compromise option.)

In spite of the volcano looming ominously over one flank of the city, there's a Neo-Classical order to the Parque Central and its environs which will remind some visitors of Xela as much as Antigua.

Meanwhile, the early twentieth-century cathedral had me thinking of Brazil and its neighbour in size and status, the mold-spattered La Merced, has an Italianate feel to it.

Beyond the core things get a little crumblier, many houses topped by tejas that haven't been changed in many a season. Overall the weather is more tropical than we are used to here, and I suspect the more steeply angled rooves and the use of cane in the patio terracing reflects the feverishness of the climate.

It was in La Merced that the American filibuster William Walker had himself inaugurated as President of Nicaragua in July 1856. After a year of 'Americanisation' (via fiscal 'reform', the reintroduction of slavery, and the imposition of English as the official language) Walker was driven from the city by a combined Guatemalan and Salvadoranean force, but not before burning the place to the ground. He was thus the human equivalent of Antigua's great quake, freezing the city's development at a certain moment in time.

Sometimes referred to as 'The Great Sultan', this particular Granada — set just back from the northwestern shore of Lake Nicaragua — was named after the Andalucian hometown of its founder, Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, (Not the failed Conquistador of the Yucatán.) I spotted several attempts around town to echo the mesmirising architecture of the Alhambra and its gardens, specifically the wooden arches within the Hotel Darío (named after Nicaragua's most venerated poet) and the long fountain trough in a gallery opposite.

*Hence the garishly-painted shop fronts and the carefree juxtaposition of native Spanish and later Neo-Classical motifs.

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