León, city (1995 pop. 125,117), W Nicaragua. It is Nicaragua's second largest city and the rail and commercial center between Corinto and Managua. It was founded in 1524 on Lake Managua by Francisco Fernández de Córdoba and moved west to its present site in 1610 after a severe earthquake. In colonial times, León was the Nicaragua's political hub. Center of the intellectuals and artisans, León became the stronghold of the liberal forces after independence from Spain (1821) and engaged in bitter rivalry with conservative Granada. Costly revolutions, in one of which León accepted aid from the U.S. filibuster William Walker, led to the founding of Managua (1855). The city is still the country's liberal center; it was heavily pro-Sandinista during the revolution against the Somoza dictatorship. The poet Rubén Darío is buried in its cathedral. Ash from the Cerro Negro volcano damaged the city in 1992.
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