El Museo de Tradiciones y Leyendas (Museum of Traditions and Legends)
El Museo de Tradiciones y Leyendas, or Museum of Traditions and Legends, is one of the very fascinating attractions in Nicaragua. Located in the city of Leòn, the museum is housed in an old prison building that was used for this purpose between 1921 and 1979. These were the most brutal and cruel years in the history of the prison. The El Museo de Tradiciones y Leyendas owes its existence to a local woman who had the determination and the will to protect and to educate following generations about the legends and traditions that the people of Nicaragua were told of by their forefathers. Stories, fables, folklore, tales and beliefs that have lived through the centuries and continue to live on, are told in the Museum of Traditions and Legends.
The walls that once protected the outside world from the prisoners, and separated the tortured souls and bodies of the prisoners from freedom, still protects the prison building today. The prison cells no longer hold tortured prisoners, but puppets that depict famous Nicaraguan legends such as the witch-pig, La Mocuana, the headless father, the golden crab, Colonel Español and the golden crocodile. Paintings that adorn the walls of the prison do not share the stories about colorful legends, but the pain and agony that the prisoners suffered during their time at the XXI Jail, and the various torture methods that were inflicted on them. The XXI Jail was base to the Somoza Guards’ 12th Company. The only living reminder to the prisoners is a big mango tree that casts its shadow on the walls of the prison building. It was planted by a prisoner and was watered from the same well that brought suffering to many prisoners when they had their heads forced under the water it contained. It also supplied the water that assisted in delivering terrifying electric shocks to the inmates.
Compared to other attractions in Nicaragua, the Museum of Traditions and Legends is both heartbreaking and uplifting. The guides at the museum overflow with fascinating stories and information about this imposing building that was once home to many.