Denise Hollingsworth / Nica 68 / TEFL
Did you hear that? Indeed. Your ears are not deceiving you. The rattling sound
you hear are the sounds of the wagon of skeletonized slaves pulled by long-gone oxen. Legend has it that La Carreta Nagua is driven by the Skeleton of Death, and represents the death and terror as the Spanish conquerors passed through villages enslaving the indigenous people, leaving a path of destruction. Legend says
that the passing of the wagon now foreshadows a death in the community.
Such legends and myths are wonderfully illustrated in the Museo de Mitos y Leyendas in León. The museum is conveniently located just south of Leon’s center in the former prison, locally known as “Prison 21.” The museum’s founder, Carmen Toruño de Garcia (1918-2011) was born in Posoltega, Chinandega, Nicaragua and lived there most of her life. It was there that her ideas to preserve the legends of her culture took root. The detailed depictions of the legends were initially housed in her home but as the exhibit grew, it was obvious that a larger more public space was required.
Greeting you at the entrance is one of the largest gigantonas in the world. In case you missed the memo, gigantonas are parodies of the Spanish women who were romanticized by Spanish colonial culture. A smaller version of the gigantonas dance through the streets through the Purisima accompanied by an animated drummer and el Enano Cabezón.
Once you regain your composure from your giant gigantona sighting, you will notice the tank that the FSLN stole from the National Guard in the liberation of the City of León in 1979, as well as the illustrations of Somoza torture victims on the outer prison walls. And all this before you ever enter the actual museum, no less.
Once inside, you will be intrigued by the tales of the Flying Woman, Pancho Ñato, La Yeguita, and many others. The life-size illustrations are charming, shocking and fascinating–all at the same time. There are even sound effects guaranteed to chill you to the bone.
For a nominal sum of 20 cords for locals (that includes PCVs, that was my prevailing argument) and 50 cords for tourists, you will, in essence, receive two guided tours. Your guide will provide a history of “Prison 21” while also providing details of
each legend. An interesting cross-section of history for a small price.