Thick with cool mist and rolling countryside, surrounded on all sides by coffee but not itself a coffee town, the little mountain pueblo of San Rafael del Norte is one of my favorite destinations and one of the towns that best evokes for me the spirit of Nicaragua's rugged north. As we wrote in Moon Nicaragua, to know San Rafael del Norte is to know Nicaragua's history. General Cesar Augusto Sandino made this wild corner his home for a while as he staked out positions against the US Marines and formed his philosophy of rugged determination, nationalism, and independence. That his philosophy and name were later co-opted into the basis of the Sandinista party is another story, one that the locals certainly would not be much interested in hearing.
While San Rafael del Norte supported the Sandinistas back in the early days of the revolution, they were quicker than some to note a discrepancy between what the FSLN government was promoting and what their old general had espoused a generation earlier, and their support of Daniel Ortega flagged. Note one of Nicaragua's masterpieces in this town, and reason enough to brave the bumpy bus ride into the mountains to visit this town: the murals inside the town cathedral portray various biblical stories, but in them the devil is figured prominently, sporting the face and mustache of one Daniel Ortega, widely believed in the area to have betrayed the ideals of Sandino himself. And this criticism was launched during the revolution itself: wonder what they would think these days?
While you are in town, save a rainy afternoon for a tour through the General Augusto Cesar Sandino Museum, located just off the park. And for outdoor activities more strenuous than munching on a hot tortilla in the park, have a look at the Finca el Jaguar, a 105 hectare eco-reserve established to monitor migratory birds.
This article was cross posted at GoToNicaragua.
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