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Grandfather weaving hammocks

Masaya is the art city of Nicaragua

His hand goes so fast, my eye hardly can follow. Before I know it, he walks up and down again, weaving another row on the hammock. This is Masaya, the hammock capital of Nicaragua. But not only hammock capital, Masaya is the art city of Nicaragua with markets full of curiosa everywhere. The biggest of them: Mercado Viejo (Old Market).

If you are on Mercado Viejo – which was built in 1891, you might as well visit the folklore museum, which is inside the market walls.

Metal workers, leather workers, carpenters, painters, musicians; in no other area of Nicaragua are so many craftsmen and artists as in Masaya and the surrounding Pueblos Blancos. The city itself, on the slopes of volcano Masaya, hasn’t got too many sights to visit, but the markets make up for it. Here you find the best of Nicaraguan passion and creativity. Most art is made in de Pueblos Blancos, where you can visit workshops of just watch how the local artist work.

Hammocks are one of the main products made in and around Masaya. Nicaragua has a big hammock culture. Almost every hostel has one and no matter what big city (Leon, Granada) you go, people will try to sell you hammocks. Even when you cross the border with Costa Rica they will even there try to sell you Nicaraguan hammocks. You find a lot of them on the market, but if you go just southwest of town, on the road to the baseball stadium, you will run in to a lot of fabricas de mamacas: a fancy word for people’s home, where they make hammocks. Mostly the whole family is involved in the process of waving them. A job that takes about two to three days for one hammock.

Almost a must is a visit to Coyotepe, just south of the volcano. This fort gives a beautiful overview over the city, but it’s history isn’t so beautiful. It was built to defend Nicaragua against his allies (as in 1912 when U.S Marines attacked) but was turned against the people of Nicaragua by dictator Somoza, who was put in charge in Nicaragua by the U.S. Somoza locked most of his political enemies up in the dungeons of this fort, often torturing them to death. How many people died, is still unknown. The story goes that a lot of bodies were thrown into the volcano to get rid of the evidence. Today the Nicaraguan Boy Scouts try to preserve this dark chapter in Nicaraguan history, honoring does who fought for the freedom and democracy of Nicaragua.

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