|2000||Inscribed||Reasons for inscription|
|1995||Deferred||Bureau - German member queried its "Universal Value". ICOMOS said it did! But concerns over Management plan etc|stephanie sanchez (usa):
yeah, my name is stephanie. and, my parents are both from nicaragua but, we live in the u.s so, this summer of 2009 i went to the ruins of viejo leon . it was a great experiance to know what it was like. also, sad to know that some indians were drag to death on a little trail they have that you can see when you take the tour like i did . well you also see cool monuments and old constuctions that are still standing . also a beautiful view at the end of the tour .
Date posted: September 2009 ():
I just got back from Nicaragua.. I went to Leon Viejo with my son. He's 6 years old. He was very intrigued and eager to learn about his mother's culture, which felt good to me..
The place is not that big, but full of information. I am happy we made it through the winding road..
When we saw the statue of the indian that had been excecuted by the killer dogs, it make me sad/angry.. who did these spaniards think they were? coming in taking the land and getting rid of the natives?
That was was going on back then, discovering and killing and taking over... has much changed?
Eve Kelly (Chicago, U.S.A.):
We visited Leon Viejo in April of 2007, and it was more fascinating than we expected. In college, I had read about the brutal Pedrarias "the Great" who had decapitated Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba here. But here in Leon Viejo, these characters came to life, because the town hasn't changed since 1609. We had a local Spanish speaking girl as our guide. She lived in the next-door town of Leon Viejo. We learned that the Indians lived here long before the Spanish "founded" the town in 1524. They had almost finished the new road when we were here. It's a great place, and we're glad we included it in our trip.
Paul Tanner (UK):
Leon Viejo consists of the remains of a colonial town founded in 1524 which had largely declined by 1580 before being finally abandoned in 1609. It then became covered by volcanic ash and was “lost” until 1967 and excavations took place. Around 18 structures have been identified, together with a plaza and main street - reflecting just how small the intial colonial settlements and populations were. The remains are set in a wooded/grassed site in sight of the town’s ultimate nemesis – the volcano of Momotombo (photo). They consist of a series of low walls rarely rising above a metre or so high which are capped by modern cement to preserve them (together in some cases with more substantial steel framed structures). The buildings include a cathedral, a convent, a fort, houses of the governor and several merchants and a number of structures of unknown purposes. There are no paintings, carvings, pillars or statues as in many classical “Old World” archaeological sites – just the rough layouts of the exterior walls/rooms and, in the religious buildings, a few graves.
At first sight there is not a lot to see! Yet we found the place well worth the 12+ km detour off the Carretera Nueva from Managua to (New) Leon to the very rural village of Momotombo on the banks of Lake Managua (It could well be an “all day” job to get to and from by public transport from Managua or Leon). The site is surprisingly well set out and each structure has a sign with an informative description in Spanish and English, together with a site plan showing its location.
The requirement, mentioned by the previous reviewer and in the guide books to have a (Spanish speaking) guide, was not enforced when we were there in Dec 2005. We did however tag along for part of the visit with another small group who did have a guide and we had the Footprint Guide to Nicaragua which has almost 2 pages on the site. The book, the signs and the guide (in that sequence), together with one’s own imagination, help bring to life what could otherwise be a rather dull site.
Whilst there are many extant American “Colonial Cities” on the UNESCO list (see the “Themes” section on this site) in my view none of them preserves the essence of those very earliest days of the European conquest and most are now bustling towns full of “accretions” from the 18/19 and 20th centuries. At Leon Viejo you can sense the newness and remoteness of the frontier. We enjoyed Panama’s Portobelo for much the same reason.
The description on 1 house states that Hernando de Soto lived there as a “Corregidor” (Magistrate). At the time he had yet to join Pizzaro on the expedition to Peru and the execution of Atahuallpa in 1533. At the Cathedral in 1532 (?) the “Apostle of the Indians” Bartholome de las Casas preached against further conquest of the Indians and was run out of town! This was all VERY early in the Iberian conquest of the continent. The town’s brief history fully reflects the brutality and treachery of the Conquest. The original founder Cordoba was beheaded by the first governor Davila – who, ironically, was later buried next to him until both bodies were removed some 475 years later during the excavations (their remains still share a modern memorial on the site)!
Nicaragua’s population is significantly mestizo even if it doesn’t have the indigenous cultural reputation of eg Guatemala. A modern statue on the site of an Indian being attacked by a dog recalls one particularly brutal early event which occurred at Leon Viejo when the governor murdered 12 Indian hostages in 1528 using his killer dogs as the executioners. At other locations in Nicaragua you will also see things which reflect the sense of hurt and pride in the “indigeno” background shared in varying degrees by some 96% of the population. To miss Leon Viejo would be to miss a significant piece of the jig saw which makes up the “whole” picture of this touristically undervalued country.
Date posted: December 2005 Joseph Colletti (USA):
I visited the ruins in July 2003. The site can be covered with a (mandatory guide, Spanish only) in about 45 minutes. It is located on the outskirts of the small town of Mamotambo, a 20 minute bus ride from La Paz Centro, which is accessible by frequent buses from Leon or Managua Ask to be let off at Las Ruinas and from there it's a ten minute walk down a dusty road to the ruins. Few facilities in the town or at the site. There had been fewer than ten visitors in the past three days according to the guest register. It is a very hot and humid location so bring water but it is well maintained. Especially interesting are the cathedral, a massive stone structure, given the overall size of the settlement and the governor's house, the layout of which is still the norm in nearby Leon. Plaster casts of the founders, one of whom killed the under, lie together under the cathedral vault. Monuments to the Spanish rulers and Indians who rose in revolt against them attest to the brutal, bloody history of the settlement. A final must is the climb to the top of the old fort for a stunning view of the nearby volcanoes and the lake.
Have you been to Ruins of León Viejo? Share your experiences!