Friday, June 6, 2014

Granada, Nicaragua: Exploring the Abdondoned San Juan de Dios Hospital

Spain's colonial imprint in Central and South America seems to have manifested itself in a multitude of ways. Generally, my mind equates the Spanish colonial imprint with large, powerful cathedrals, so I was essentially overwhelmed with curiosity at the prospect of exploring a colonial hospital. Here's the best part - San Juan de Dios Hospital is abandoned.

In 1898, San Juan de Dios looked as pristine as a colonial palace. The photo above was taken that very year, the year in which it came into use. It was also the same year that Marie Curie discovered radium, but that's neither here nor there. As I was saying, just 100 years later, the hospital would be abandoned. I am to understand that since then it has been sacked of most everything that could be sold. I searched long and hard for more information about this hospital, but it isn't all that easy I must say. I did, however, find several articles about companies attempting to build these semi-ruins into some sort of modern day hotel. As far as I could see, there hasn't been much progress on that, and I'm glad. 

So, about 15 years after San Juan de Dios was closed, I arrived on the scene, and it was the start of a strange and intriguing afternoon. And, of course, the skies had to be an ominious and foreboding gray.

It has always fascinated me as to what actually becomes a tourist destination in a city, or "worth visiting." I'm not sure that San Juan de Dios has a large tourist draw by any means, but it does function in the city now more in the line of tourism than anything else. In this case, it had to be accidental. It reminds me of these places with tourism value that really don't fall into the traditional tourism category (ie. museums, famous landmarks etc.) In some cases, destinations have a tourist draw precisely because of their troubled or dark history. Take, for example, Normandy or the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

I entered through the front entrance to the faint sound of children laughing. The start of every good horror film, right? Fortunately, it was only children playing football, making good use of the now derelict space.

I spent about an hour walking around the different spaces and rooms in what used to be a burgeoning hospital. I even spent a little while walking around the second floor, which now merely serves as a vantage point for the rest of the grounds, a concrete roof of sorts. It was wonderfully peculiar. I was actively trying to relish the whole underlying strangeness of it all, because that, ultimately, was the tourist draw for me. As I've been wont to do recently, I'll tell this story in pictures. I can only hope the pictures stir up a little emotion, as emotion was certainly present as I walked around the complex, especially all by my lonesome.


There is something about a place that is abandoned that forces us to imagine what was or what might have been. Perhaps the weirdest part for me on this journey was walking around as my mind imagined doctors walking through the halls, and nurses checking in on patients. I couldn't help it. It's simply amazing what the mind can conjure up with a little blank space to work with on the canvas.

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