A jungle, dense with vegetation and animals, wraps around the public library. In a playground, youth defend their nations. On the next corner, ancient to modern-day Nicaraguans confront an eagle clawing Planet Earth. In the hospital the popular history of this country is proudly on display. A few blocks away is the Little Prince.
These are the images of only a few of the over 150 murals that decorate EstelĂ in northern Nicaragua. For that reason, it was declared âThe City of Muralsâ in 2003.
During the Sandinista Revolution (1979-1990), mural workshops flourished throughout this country. Today, only in EstelĂ do they survive, preserving the originals and painting new images. Two talleres, or workshops, are still active: one at the Casa de Cultura and the other at Funarte, working with hundreds of children and women.
Modern-day EstelĂ was founded at the end of the 16th century. During the Insurrection (1978-1979), this was an important center of fighting. Then-dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle heavily bombed the city (in one case, a dud bomb has become a monument). El Carmen Cemetery, west of the city, is exclusively full of those civilians killed during the April 1979 uprising. The EstelĂ region witnessed extensive damage by the U.S.-backed Contras during the 1980s. The municipal graveyard is full of the tombs of these victims.
To learn about this history, visit the GalerĂa de HĂ©roes y MĂĄrtires, run by the mothers of these individuals, and El CafĂ© del Poeta, operated by MarĂa de los Ăngeles Rugama, sister of the poet Leonel Rugama.
EstelĂ is home to many cooperatives and organizations. Someâincluding Funarte, the Casa de Mujer and Miraflorâwelcome volunteers. This is also a center for the study of not only Spanish, but also medicinal herbs. Good cigars are rolled here, and the factories may be toured.
The patron saint days are June 24 to 26, the feast of John the Baptist. During the nightsâ wee hours, horsemen kick a head through the deserted streets. Another important festival is La PurĂsima, celebrated with nine days of processions, culminating December 7th.
In the hills surrounding EstelĂ are a number of attractions. To the south, Estanzuela waterfall cascades into a refreshing pool. To the north are several artisan villages, such as San Juan de Limay, where the locals carve marble, and Ducuale Grande, where pottery is skillfully crafted. To the northeast is the organic coffee cooperative and cloud forest reserve Miraflor, whose main offices are in EstelĂ.
All these wonders of nature, as well as the history and dreams of Nicaragua, come to life in the discussions of the people of EstelĂ, and in the dozens of murals that decorate this northern Nicaraguan city.
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