A small city with an ancient heritage, San Marcos has a lively and vibrant spirit that is almost entirely due to the student population at Ave Maria College of the Americas (www.avemaria.edu.ni, Tel: 505-2-535-2339), where courses are taught in English.
With over 1000 students in the English-speaking courses, Ave Maria has had trouble keeping up with on-campus housing, but city residents have absorbed the overflow by taking students into their homes. Walk around the city and youâ€™ll see hand-lettered signs offering long-term rentals.
The student population means that San Marcos is sprinkled with restaurants, from thatched dives to gourmet coffee shops. Around the central park, vendors also sell fresh fruit and bread from wicker baskets.
To help newcomers get around, the alcaldĂa has a large and very tourist-friendly map. They donâ€™t keep many copies on hand, but several copy shops are located around the park.
In 1995, archaeologists found evidence that indigenous tribes were living in the San Marcos area 2000 to 3000 BC, well before the Spanish invaded in 1520. Locals know the overgrown locations where petroglyphs can be found, but there are no guides to the sites as yet.
Locals also recognize San Marcos as the birthplace of General Anastasio Somoza Garcia. There are no monuments to the Nicaraguan dictator, but his hometown is the first stop on the Route of Generals, a string of cities associated with Gen. JosĂ© Maria Moncada (born in Masatepe), Benjamin ZeledĂłn (buried in Catarina) and Somozaâ€™s foe General Agusto CĂ©sar Sandino (born in Niquinohomo), who the eventual dictator killed in an ambush in 1934.
At the end of April 24, San Marcos explodes with fireworks, music and dancing in honor of the cityâ€™s patron saint. San Marcos gets the chance to sally out from the flowery murals of Iglesia de San Marcos Agradece on April 24, when the icon famously meets with the patron saints of Diriamba, Jinotepe and La ConcepciĂłn.