Nicknamed ‘the Great Sultan, ‘ in honor of its Moorish namesake across the Atlantic, Granada was founded in 1524 by Francisco Fernández de Córdoba, and is the oldest city in the New World. It was constructed as a showcase city, the first chance that the Spanish had to prove they had more to offer than bizarre religions and advanced military technology, and it still retains an almost regal beauty, each adobe masterpiece faithfully resurrected to original specifications after every trial and tribulation.
A trade center almost from its inception, Granada’s position as the mistress of Lago de Nicaragua became even more important when the Spanish realized, in the 1530s, that the Río San Juan was navigable from the lake to the sea. This made Granada rich – and vulnerable. Between 1665 and 1670, pirates sacked the city three times, and that was only the worst of it.
Undaunted, Granada rebuilt and grew even richer and more powerful, a conservative cornerstone of the Central American economy. And, after independence from Spain, the city chose to challenge the colonial capital, longtime rival and liberal bastion León, for leadership of the new nation.