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Fortaleza de la Inmaculada Concepción - Historical Building El Castillo - Nicaragua

The Fort at El Castillo

The squat fortress which stands on the highest point of El Castillo was completed in 1675 as part of the Spaniards’ defenses against British-led attacks on Granada and Leon. In 1762, the little castle was the scene of a battle worthy of a Hollywood film. An expedition was sent by the governor of Jamaica to take the fort. Since the commander of the fort, Don Pedro Herrera, had just died of natural causes, the attackers figured it would be a walkover and demanded the keys. 

Rafaela Harrera's Defense of the Fort

But the plucky 19-year-old daughter of the commander, Rafaela Herrera, proclaimed herself head of the garrison and refused. She literally held the fort - she is even said to have fired the cannon which sank the main British ship – and the attackers gave up after five days. 

The English Return

The English did not give up so easily, though. In April of 1780, a fleet with 2,000 men led by Horatio Nelson (of later Trafalgar fame) attacked the fort and took it after a hard battle of one week. But their victory did not last long. The rainy season brought a cohort of tropical diseases – malaria, dysentery, yellow fever – which properly decimated the conquering troops, who had to abandon the Fortaleza.Eventually, in 1783, the British and the Spanish signed a peace treaty and the Castillo, free of battles, was left to slowly fall apart.

Modern Fortaleza de la Inmaculada Concepción

Starting 1990, with the help of the Spanish cooperation, heavy work was undertaken to preserve the ruins of the fortress. The fortifications, including a few intact rooms which now house the public library, are now open to visits, and definitely worth one, at least for the unique view over the meanders of the Río San Juan. There is also an excellent museum in a new building (opened May 2009) on the same site. You might want to skip the obligatory pre-Columbian ceramics, but take a look at the displays in Spanish and English that chronicle the life of the fort with clear explanations and rescued objects like cannonballs. It also indicates a good chronology of the inter-ocean canal plans for Nicaragua, with pictures of El Castillo and Greytown in better days.

El Castillo, Nicaragua

Historical Building Types:
Site of historic significance, Site of historic significance, Historic architecture

Travel Tips:

Open Tuesday to Friday 8 am to noon and 1 pm to 4.30 pm, Saturdays and Sundays 9 am to noon and 1 pm to 4 pm.

Price Description:

$2 + $1.25 per camera + $2.50 videocamera

Relative price: Budget

Travel Skills: None

Currencies accepted
US dollar, Nicaraguan córdoba

By Andrea Davoust
After more than two years of working and living out of a suitcase in Eastern Europe and in various improbable African countries that no-one has ever...
11 Nov 2009

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