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The Montelimar Resort

The physical legacy left by the long Somoza dictatorship includes the torture chambers at El XXI in Le贸n, the shattered downtown core of Managua, and鈥 five-star resort hotel?

Barcel贸鈥檚 Montelimar Beach Resort is a slick, world-class operation, but it has a longer, darker history than most all-inclusives do. The land it sits on near Pochomil was originally owned by a wealthy German-Nicaraguan family, but President Anastasio Somoza Garc铆a seized the property during World War Two and turned it into his beach estate. He constructed a mansion on the bluffs above the Pacific and converted much of the remaining land into a sugar plantation.

Montelimar quickly became Somoza鈥檚 favorite getaway. A natural charmer and host, he would often bring foreign envoys to the estate so that he could schmooze them and ensure international support for his regime. Though Somoza ultimately met his end in Le贸n, Montelimar was also central to political intrigue during his time in office; in the 1940s, coup plotters planned to seize power in Managua while Somoza was at the beach, and 1950s revolutionaries planned to assassinate Somoza as he was traveling to the estate.

After the death of Somoza Garc铆a, the presidency, and with it ownership of Montelimar, was passed on to his sons, Luis and Anastasio Somoza Debayle. The estate remained a treasured asset to Nicaragua鈥檚 ruling clan. The grounds were maintained as the war with Sandinista rebels gained momentum, and Montelimar鈥檚 airstrip was even used to evacuate prominent foreigners as the revolutionaries descended on Managua. With the fall of Anastasio Somoza Debayle鈥檚 government in 1979, however, the property experienced several dramatic changes.

Early on, the new Sandinista government used Montelimar as perhaps the world鈥檚 nicest military camp. Quickly, however, Sandinista insiders fell for the spot, much as Somoza had, and used it as a party retreat. The Minister of Tourism, Herty Lewites, saw the potential for Montelimar to bring in tourists and much-needed foreign capital, and he set about converting Montelimar into a resort. The government administered the place for a few years, but when the Sandinistas were voted out of office, the resort was sold to the Spanish chain Barcel贸.

Barcel贸 has run the property as a five-star, all-inclusive resort ever since. The original mansion built by Anastasio Somoza has been turned into a casino, perhaps a fitting tribute to such an avaricious man, while the substantial grounds now hold tennis courts, palapa bars, swimming pools and a miniature golf course. The airstrip, once used to evacuate the Somozas鈥 fleeing allies, now welcomes visitors flying in on private jets.

It is unclear what the future holds for Montelimar. The children and grandchildren of the Somoza Debayle brothers have been very active over the past decade in claiming their family鈥檚 old properties, which were confiscated by the Sandinista regime. They have had some success in court proceedings, but the crown jewel, the Montelimar, has so far remained out of reach.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Nicaragua : Coffee in Niacaragua, Managua Shopping Summary, Safety, Safety, Studying Spanish in Nicaragua, When to go, Fincas in Nicaragua, When to go to R铆o San Juan, Driving and Nicaragua Car Rentals and Photography in Nicaragua.

By Nick Rosen
A staff-writer here at V!VA's offices in Ecuador, I came to Quito after having worked on public health and development projects in Africa. Naturally,...
12 May 2009

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