The arrival of the Spanish

Christopher Columbus first explored the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua on his fourth voyage to the New World in 1502. Pacific Nicaragua was ‘discovered’ by conquistador Gil Gonzalez Davila in 1522, when his explorations north along the Pacific coast from Panama encountered chief Nicaragua on the shore of Lake Cocibolca near modern day San Jorge. Gonzalez Davila was well received, and his descriptions were recorded by the chronicler Francisco Oviedo y Valdez. Continuing further north to the town of Xalteva (modern day Granada) however, Gonzalez was attacked and driven south, and he ultimately fled Nicaragua. He returned in the next year and pacified the region.

Spaniards using dogs of war to attack the indigenous Nicaraguans. 

Leon Viejo

Leon Viejo was the original capital of the Nicaraguan colony. It was founded in 1524 by Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba. The town suffered several natural disasters in the short time it was occupied: the eruption of the nearby Momotombo volcano in 1578 and a devastating earthquake in 1610. At that time the city was abandoned and relocated to modern day Leon. The archaeological site has been recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site and can be visited by tourists to see many excavated and consolidated Colonial buildings. Excavations inside of the ancient cathedral recovered skeletal remains identified as those of the founding governor, Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba. 


Granada is the oldest Colonial city in the American mainland; it was established in 1524 by Fernando Hernandez de Cordoba and named for the Spanish city of the same name that was conquered to drive the Moors out of the Iberian Peninsula. Colonial Granada was a major port for goods brought up the Rio San Juan from the Caribbean, across Lake Cocibolca, and then redistributed to the populated coastal plain of Pacific Nicaragua. Although periodically attacked by pirates, including the famous Sir Henry Morgan in 1665 and later the American mercenary William Walker, Granada continued to thrive. 

Port of El Realejo 

The main port on the Pacific coast provided access to the Orient. El Realejo, located in the northern district of Chinandega, developed as a central focus of the Colonial economy. It was founded in 1532, and continued into the early 1600s when pirate attacks forced its abandonment in favor of the current port of Corinto.