Matagalpa Travel Guide

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Matagalpa is a northern city of Nicaragua, situated 130 Km. north of Managua, at 3000 feet over sea level. It is known for its cool weather, and cloud forest near the city. Population of the City: 105,000 inhabitants. Population of the Province of Matagalpa: 500,000 inhab. It is located in the coffee region of the northern highlands of the country. You can get there from Managua taking "Carretera Norte" (North Highway). It takes 1.5 hours driving from Managua International Aiport, or 2 hours from the Capital city of Managua.

Matagalpa is an Indian name, meaning "Lets go where the rocks are" (Father Guillermo Kiene, ligüist), because it´s located on the side of Rio Grande, called "rocky river" (Kiwaska) by the Indians.  

Matagalpa was one of Indian settlements discovered by the Spanish in 1542 when they were trying to find the passage to the Nor th Sea. As the Spanish did not find gold there, the Town was settled by Dominican and Mercedarian missioners accompanied with few soldiers. Soon more Spanish, more men than women settlers arrived and started mixing  with the local population.

It remained like that until gold was found in 1808, but it was not exploited until the 1850s when some gold prospectors stop there ( Mr.Painter from England, Dr. Sigo and Mr. Williams from USA, Leopold Wassmer from Germany). Some other interesting people stop here on their way to the Californian mines. For example Georges Choiseul Praslin, who is thought to be the famous Par of France Duc Choiseul Praslin who escaped from Paris in 1847 after a misterious crime committed on Duchese Fanny Sebastiani de Porta and Praslin, and the arrival of Louis Elster and his wife Katharina Braun who were the fist persons to plant coffee trees in Northen Nicaragua.  

Matagalpa is also known because of the many German, English and North American immigrants who came here to settle following the Elster-Braun couple invitation and grow coffee since the 1880s. In this city you will meet many people with last names like Vogl, Macy, Hawkins, Kühl, Weimer, Alm, Kollerbohn, Bolt, Fley, O'Rourk, Hayn, Richardson, Bonnerman, Pao, Kraudy etc.  

Matagalpa is the only city in the country having a Cemetery for Foreigners, it is worth visiting it just a few minutes walking distance south of the city) From 1903 to 1905 a weird steam locomotive with 6 wagon transporting coffee ran from Matagalpa to the port of Corinto at the Pacific Ocean, it did not run on steel rails, it ran on the dirt itself, so people called it "Terrocarril" (railess train), it was probably unique in the world. You can see photographs of the Terrocarril in Selva Negra Musseun, 10 kilometers north of the city of Matagalpa on the highway to Jinotega. You can also take "La Ruta del Cafe" (Coffee Tour), visit the Coffee Musseum in the center of the city and ask for INTUR (Institute of Tuorism).  

In Matagalpa there are many restaurants and hotels, of various prices (Hotel & Restaurant Raices, Hotel Lomas de Saint Tomas, Hotel Caoba, Hotel Fountainblue, Campestre Barcelona.   Ten kilometers on the highway to Jinotega is Selva Negra Mountain Resort, with bungalows and restaurant, horseback riding, coffee tours, bird watching, eco-tourism etc..   Unique to Matagalpa is the Indian Black Ceramic (Ceramica Negra)you can find it in local stores. Also the remaining Matagalpa Indian Community of El Chile, 12 kilometers from Matagalpa. The Indian Ethnic group known as "Matagalpan", is not a Meso-Americam race of Indians, but of Chibcha origin, they live in the central highlands of the country from Nueva Segovia to Chontales province, they had their own language which lingüists are trying to rescue from about 500 written words found in an antique document filed in Brinton Library in Philadelphia, USA.

The Matagalpa Indians became famous when they saved Nicaragua from William Walker takeover in San Jacinto battle in 1856. "Matagalpa Washed Coffee" is famous worldwide because its quality, chocolate flavor, and shade grown to protect nature. Some Matagalpa coffee farms has established international brand names. Matagalpa is the second most populated Province of the country, it has 6 representatives (diputados) to the National Congress, Matagalpa has been the cradle of some of the nation´s best citizens like Benito Morales (1803-1890) Chief of State in 1833. Nazario Vega (1825-1911)Governor of the Province in the 1860s and leader of the construction of Matagalpa Cathedral (1874-1895). Francisco Amador (1828-1910) was the Treasurer of Ejército del Septentrión that defeated the filibusters in 1856. Ruben Dario (1867-1916) one of the most famous poets of the Spanish language was born in the town of Metapa, Matagalpa. Bartolome Martinez, President of Nicaragua in 1923-1924. Carlos Fonseca Amador (1936-1975) founder of the Sandinista Philosophy that helped ending Somoza regime. Coffee was first planted in Matagalpa in 1852 and is now the mayor income for its population. A woman was the first coffee producer of northern Nicaragua highlands, her name was Katharina Braun Elster (1830-1887), her tomb and lapid can be visited in San Ramon´s Cemetery, 10 kilometers southeast the city of Matagalpa.

Part or or all of this text stems from the original article at: E·ddy Kuhl, Historian Academy of Geography and History of Nicaragua

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June 14, 2005 change by giorgio

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