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May 4, 2003

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Nicaragua has three prominent cities that have played out its history. The first two, Leon and Grenada, vied for power and drew lines between liberal (Leon) and conservative (Grenada). Managua, the current capital, rose in the middle of this tug-o-war, acting as 'neutral' ground, a place where people came to disagree about the country's future. We plan to visit each these cities and decide which city 'personality' we like best. Yesterday, Leon, today, Managua (a short bus ride connects each place).
Managua, Nicaragua's capital, spreads across Lake Managua's southern shore and holds more than a quarter of Nicaragua's population. It's been racked by natural disasters, including two earthquakes this century, and since the 1972 earthquake the city has had no center. The blocks of low housing and roads seem to wander aimlessly into the hills. Dennis Martinez stadium acts as landmark (baseball fans might know he was a good pitcher for the Orioles - he's a national hero in his Nicaraguan homeland).
Locals are friendly and curious, always ready to play ball.
An ominous silhouette statue of a Sandinista dominates a hill overlooking Managua. Strolling in the evening back to the hotel we've heard about men who stand on street corners with whistles. They whistle as you walk past to alert the next block that you're on the way and 'be on the lookout' - it's a whistling neighborhood watch.
A construction boom hasn't helped everyone, we find squatters living under blanket tents in central park. A church spares a wall of the cathedral for a Coca-Cola mural.