Leon is Nicaragua’s showpiece to the world. A stroll down its cobbled streets takes you back to its glory days when the Spanish empire was one of the richest, most powerful in the world. The Spanish came, saw, and refused to leave until they had decimated the indigenous population and plundered their wealth of minerals and metals. While they were here they built monuments to their grandeur, symbols of their might and ego, carved out of solid rock that remain neatly arranged around the town centre. The towering cathedrals, which could never be mistaken for simple churches, punctuate the city’s barrios: each cathedral dedicated to a different biblical event.
Leon today is a must-see; a city highlighted and recommended in every traveller’s guide. Travellers come to witness the colonial charm that remained after history ran its course. Others use the city as a base for visiting the nearby beaches or for the “once in a lifetime” chance to toboggan down the side of a volcano. More serious travellers take advantage of the city’s language schools and learn to hablar espanol muy bien. Most don’t realise that in the city lies a real rarity that is hard to find anywhere else in Central America: a traditional Chinese medicine centre.
The Chinese Medicine Centre
The many services the centre provides
Centro de Terapias Naturales y Orientales offers acupuncture, massage therapy, herbal remedies, Thai massage, chiropractic massage, lymphatic massage, and reiki. The best massage I had in Central America was received here for a mere $14. There is an herbal dispensary selling supplements at very low prices. A bottle of maca root that would normally sell for $20 in Canada, is only $2.50 there. A bottle of dietary cleanse capsules that normally go for $25, sells for $1.50.
The most interesting story, however, is not what the centre is, but why it is. This Chinese medical centre exists because of the revolution. The revolution had strong roots in liberal, intellectual Leon as evidenced by the many murals and monuments around town remembering the martyrs of the revolution. In a show of empathy and solidarity with the people and their ideals, a team of Japanese came to Leon’s aid. In the years they were here, they trained willing students the art of Chinese medicine, acupuncture, and massage. The director of the clinic and her husband were both in the first class of Nicaraguans to learn Chinese medicine from the Japanese. It was this tiny grass roots group that carried on the tradition, spreading the knowledge to those who want to learn. Today they offer a one year course in acupuncture that can lead to certification.
Centro de Terapias Naturales y Orientales can be a bit tricky to find. The address is:
Costado Noroeste UNAN Leon
1/2 cuadra al oeste, Leon.
Telephone: 2311-2955, or 8333-8747, or 8657-0643
A mural dedicated to the 4 martyrs of the revolution
A mural dedicated to the massacre of July 23, 1959