Thursday, January 14, 2010

Myths and Legends

León is known for its variety of museums, from religious art to local artesians. We didn´t have time to visit most of them, but the one we did see is probably the most colorful one of all.
The Museum of Myths and Legends, or the XXI (21) as it is known, is a strange contrast; it tells the story of León´s many popular legendary figures in what used to be a prison. Life-size papier mache figurines illustrate the traditional myths of León, and graphic murals on the walls behind them depict torture methods used on prisoners who lived (and may have died) in the very room you stand in. Definitely a jarring juxtaposition. Our enthusiastic guide would abruptly switch from showing us a figurine of the woman who turns into a pig and attacks men to talking about how the friend of Somoza who ran the place for a while, a "doctor," used to kill prisoners using "medicine." There were many more disturbing stories, many learned from former prisoners who came to visit the museum where they were once held and who volunteered their stories.
This is such a striking way of reclaiming a place of tragedy and terror, without forgetting about the horrible things that happened there. Every week the guides pray for the souls of all those who died in the former prison and who are now buried in unmarked graves beneath its foundation. Since prisión XXI closed its doors, the people of León have never built another prison within their city.

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