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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 Estelí in northern Nicaragua. For that reason, it was declared “The City of Murals” 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 Galería de Héroes y Mårtires, run by the mothers of these individuals, and El Café del Poeta, operated by María de los Ángeles Rugama, sister of the poet Leonel Rugama.



Estelí is home to many cooperatives and organizations. Some—including Funarte, the Casa de Mujer and Miraflor—welcome 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 nights’ wee hours, horsemen kick a head through the deserted streets. Another important festival is La Purísima, 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.


Other places nearby Esteli: Sebaco, Rio Blanco, Mozonte , Somoto, Rosita, Chaguitillo, San Rafael Del Norte, San Ramon, Mulukuku and San Juan De Limay.

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

08 May 2009

Things to do in Esteli

Gallery of Heroes and Martyrs

130515This moving tribute was founded and is run by the mothers of widows of soldiers killed in the Sandinista Revolution. Although the displays are a bit makeshift, the murals, photos, articles of ...
Esteli, Nicaragua

Reserva Natural Miraflor

Located 35 kilometers (22 mi) northeast of Esteli, this campesino-owned nature reserve became protected in 1990, and is a haven for exotic flora and fauna including hundreds of species of birds and ...
Esteli, Nicaragua

Cigar Factory

130939Upon entering Nick’s Cigar Company in Esteli, visitors are immediately accosted by the overpowering scent of tobacco. The entrance room is covered in large portraits of owners Nick Perdomo Sr. and ...
Other Activity
Esteli, Nicaragua

Reserva Natural Meseta Tisey-Estanzuela

131175Less frequented than Reserva Miraflor is Reserva Natural Meseta Tisey-Estanzuela, also located outside of Esteli. Trails within the expansive forest offer views of Honduras and El Salvador, as well ...
Esteli, Nicaragua

Museum of History and Archaeology

130523Adjacent to the Gallery of Heroes and Martyrs, this tiny, slightly dilapidated museum houses an eclectic collection of artifacts, from antique phones and typewriters to archaeological finds. Perhaps ...
Esteli, Nicaragua

Catedral de Nuestra Senora del Rosario

130524Simply constructed in 1823, Catedral de Nuestra Senora del Rosario was remodeled in 1889 and then again in 1929, when it acquired its modern neo-classical façade. Designated a cathedral with the ...
Historical Building
Esteli, Nicaragua
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