The railroad station in Leon

Estacion de ferrocarril, Leon

There is no railroad and no station anymore, but the railroad station in Leon is a fascinating spot anyhow. A building from a time when it was English industrialism that was being globalized. Today, it is part of Leon´s chaotic street market, taken over by bicycle repair shops filled with spare parts from China.

Today we have come directly to Leon from Leon Viejo. While the ruins in the old town of the conquerors started a line of thoughts about the role played by ruthless exploitation and death in the history of this country, the railroad station in Leon gives a glimpse of the history of Nicaragua´s future: a history full of dreams about big steps forward.

It is a building from a time we have now forgotten, when the English steel foundries and their most outstanding product, the steam engine, was the symbol of progress. A building from a time when the Nicaraguan bourgeoisie still believed it had a destiny and a duty to lead it´s country along the path set by the English.

A hundred years later, in the 1980´s, the railroad workers by unbelievable ingenuity kept the line working all through the civil war. They were real working class heroes in a time when some people dreamed of making Nicaragua into an industrialised workers´and farmers´republic, a kind of central American Rumania.

One of the first things the newly elected President Violeta Chamorro did in 1990 was to close down the railroad and sell the rails as scrap to El Salvador.

Today, the railroad station has been swallowed by the wildly spreading market of Leon. Among other things it is the home of the section for bicycle parts. This is an industry and a trade that has come to Nicaragua during the 1990s from the
big cities of Asia. The rows of shining wheel rims are, perhaps, pointing towards a vision of what in this new millennium will pass for progress in countries like Nicaragua: thousands of workers biking to work, bells clinging, to the Korean and Taiwan-owned textile factories of Special Export Zones circling evermore of the cities and towns of Nicaragua.

See also: Visiting a pensioned railroad worker (but not a word about the railroad!)

(First posted in Danish March 21, 2007)


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