Historical trivia buffs, take note! A lot of Managua’s most historically salient points are close to invisible, in stark contrast to the role they played in the lead-up to the 1979 revolution. None of these destinations have gotten the granite monument they deserve, but their importance is no less diminished, even as life goes on around them. If you have a rainy afternoon in Managua, hop in a taxi and revisit history on this 30-minute driving tour. From your hotel go first to the Plaza de la Revolución.
One block south of the Guerrillero sin Nombre, the southwest corner with a lone wooden telephone pole marks the site of journalist Pedro Joaquin Chamorro’s assassination as he drove to his office on January 10, 1978. Whether the drive-by was paid for by Tachito or his business partner in the infamous blood-bank business was never determined, but Chamorro’s death helped spark the Revolution. Look for a concrete monument directly behind the telephone pole.
Turn south onto Avenida Bolívar. You’ll pass some government buildings and Parque Luis Alfonso Velásquez Flores before coming to the National Arboretum (tel. 505/2222-2558, Mon.-Fri. 8am-5pm, free) on your left, home to more than 200 species of trees found in Nicaragua. It is practically unvisited except by local school groups but is especially attractive in March, when the fragrant sacuanjoche (Nicaragua’s national flower) blooms brightly. The scarlet flowers of the malinche tree blossom May-August. The trees are planted atop the remnants of Somoza’s Hormiguero (Anthill), a military base belonging to the National Guard and destroyed in 1972 by the earthquake. Popular legend has it that this was the site where, on February 21, 1934, General Sandino was ambushed and assassinated after meeting with President Sacasa at his home on the Loma de Tiscapa.
Turn left at Plaza Inter and head in the direction of the El Dorado neighborhood. The monument to Bill Stewart is one block west and two blocks south of the Semáforo El Dorado. Bill Stewart was a U.S. journalist for ABC in the 1970s. While reporting on the early days of the Sandinista insurrection he was brutally attacked and killed by members of Somoza’s National Guard. Stewart’s cameraman filmed and published the whole thing, forcing the U.S. government to stop turning a blind eye to the excesses of Nicaragua’s dictator.
Finally, and in the opposite direction, just west of the petroleum refinery on the road leading west out of town is La Cuesta del Plomo, the ravine where Somoza was allegedly fond of making folks “disappear.” Families whose loved ones didn’t come home after a few days would go to this hillside to search for their bodies.
Excerpted from the Sixth Edition of Moon Nicaragua.