THE SPANISH LANGUAGE
is the second most spoken language in the world due to the number of speakers who claim it as their native tongue (after Mandarin Chinese). It is spoken as a first and second language amongst 450 and 500 million people. It is the third most spoken language as a first or second language after Mandarin Chinese and English combined, and is the mother tongue to 400 million people worldwide... Read more
America Country Profile
Nicaragua is Central America’s largest country. Originally a colony of Spain in the 1520s, Nicaragua gained its independence on the 15th September 1821. Located in the middle of Central America, nestled between Costa Rica and Honduras, Nicaragua covers an area of 130,688 km2 (slightly larger than the State of New York). It borders both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. Nicaragua is home to almost 6 million people, making it Central America’s least densely populated country. The national GDP stands at $2.5 billion and its natural resources include, livestock, fisheries, gold, silver and timber, whilst its agriculture is primarily, coffee, corn, sugar, meat, rice, beans and bananas. The principal religion is Roman Catholic (85%) though other religions exist. Nicaragua’s government is republic and the President (José Daniel Ortega Saavedra) is not only head of state but also head of government, and holds supreme power. Managua, the capital city, founded in 1819, was originally built to serve as a rural fishing village. Now home to 1,800,000, the city with its bars, cafes and restaurants is a principal attraction for tourists seeking to experience the warmth of Nicaraguan culture.
: Total 130,688 km² (97th)
50,193 sq mi.
: Water (%): 7.14
: 15th September 1821
: Spanish, Miskito speaking and other minorities and English
: 2009 estimate 5,891,199 (110th)
: 2005 census 5,148,098
: Density 42/km² (133nd)
Thanks to the United Nations rating Nicaragua as one of the safest countries in Latin America in 1996, tourism has grown from strength to strength. Nicaragua is much more accessible to the visitor than ever before, with a wide range of accommodation options for those travelling either on a budget or alternatively for those wishing to enjoy a little more comfort and luxury. Nicaragua is proud of its amazing scenery, with a visit to the Masaya Volcano National Park being a must. Other top recommendations for the visitor include the cities of Leon in the north and Granada, both of which are home to some fascinating old architecture and many intriguing little streets to meander through. Gold and silver are amongst the country’s natural resources and as such make jewellery a good purchase for the discerning shopper. Also recommended are the specialist coffees; the country boasts some of the best in the world! Nicaragua’s people are proud of their country and culture, they welcome visitors with warmth and sincerity, your visit is guaranteed to be unforgettable!.
PEOPLE AND CULTURE
Nicaragua’s population today is an interesting fusion of cultures that has occurred over the centuries. In part, it includes native tribes from the Mosquito Coast, Europeans, Africans, Asians and others of Middle Eastern ancestry. Most of the Nicaraguan population, (around 90% or 7.0 million), is either Mestizo or White. Over half (around 69%) are Mestizos (mixed Amerindian and White) whilst the remaining 17% are white with the majority being of Spanish, German, Italian, English or French origin.
Nicaraguan culture would make a fascinating study for any ethnologist. It has strong legend, music and religious traditions, influenced greatly by Europe and its culture, yet at the same time enhanced with a definite Amerindian essence. Its culture can be sub-divided into several distinct areas. The Pacific coast has strong mythology, music and religious traditions, deeply influenced by Europeans. Being colonized by Spain, it has a similar culture to other Spanish-speaking South American countries. In contrast however, the Caribbean coast of the country was at one time a British colony and English is still very influential in this region, being spoken alongside Spanish and other native languages. The culture in this area is similar to that of Caribbean communities that were at one time, part of the British Commonwealth or indeed continue to be so, such as Jamaica, Belize, The Cayman Islands, etc. The native people of the Pacific coast region show great similarities to the mestizo culture, however in contrast, the native people of the Caribbean coast have rightly maintained a distinct identity.
Religion is a significant part of Nicaragua’s culture, religious freedom being promised 1939. Religious tolerance is encouraged by the government and as such other religions are in practiced peacefully. Catholicism does prevail though it is not considered the official religion. However, Catholic Bishops are expected to offer their authority at important state occasions, and their judgment on national issues is closely followed. The Bishops are also addressed occasionally to collaborate between contending parties at times of political unrest.
The mixture of the prevelant Catholic religion in addition to numerous native customs has resulted in a strong mix of cultural celebrations based on the honoring of particular saints. Every city in Nicaragua has its own patron saint, indeed some saints are even shared by more than one town. As well as offering these saints gifts in exchange for blessings, such as safeguarding fruitful crops, the people of Nicaragua throw themselves into elaborate festivities in their honor. The fiestas are a time of joy and fun and usually begin with a parade where a statue of the saint is displayed. Traditional dances and plays, incorporating magnificent costumes, are an important part of such festivities. Celebrations continue with fireworks and a great deal of festive indulging until the early hours.
GEOGRAPHY AND ENVIRONMENT
Nicaragua borders both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. The country boasts 910km of coastline, where Atlantic coastal lowlands in the east give rise to the central interior mountains, then fall again down to Pacific coastal lowland in the west, a region that incorporates a number active volcanoes. Nicaragua has three distinct geographical regions: the Pacific Lowlands, the Amerrique Mountains (North-Central Highlands), and the Mosquito Coast (Atlantic Lowlands).
The Pacific lowlands cover an area of around 75 km inland from the Pacific coast. Most of this area is flat, except for a line of volcanoes, many of which are active, that lie between the Golfo de Fonseca and Lago de Nicaragua. These volcanos lie to the west of one of the earths’ large fractures and this area is home to some of the largest freshwater lakes in Central America: Lago de Managua (56 km long / 24 km wide) and Lago de Nicaragua (160 km long / 75 km wide). The two lakes flow into a series of rivers and subsequent lakes which ultimately flow into the Caribbean Sea. Here, the valley of the Río San Juan forms a natural corridor nearing sea level and crossing the Nicaraguan link from the Caribbean Sea to Lago de Nicaragua. From the southwest edge of this lake, it is only 19 km to the Pacific Ocean and as such, this route was considered as a possible alternative when constructing the Panama Canal.
For the last 30 years, protecting Nicaragua’s environment has been a major concern and continues to be so in our plight to conserve our world. A new national forest institute to regulate and control the use of the forests has recently been established. Rainforest in Nicaragua covers more than 20,000 km², most of which is situated on the Atlantic lowlands. In addition to the Bosawás Biosphere Reserve in the north, there is the Indio Maíz Biological Reserve in the south, which protects 2,500 km² of the Atlantic Rainforest, and this area initially received funding and support from international governments and organizations. These two areas are very rich in biodiversity. Known, are 5 species of felines, including jaguar and cougar; 3 species of primates, spider monkey, howler monkey and capuchin monkey; 1 species of tapir, 3 species of anteaters and many more species besides. The ongoing work of the forest institute is vital for their preservation and the species that depend so heavily on them. Future generations must be able to experience the wonder of their country, not just read of it in their history books.
WEATHER AND CLIMATE
Nicarugua’s climate is tropical with a dry and rainy season, however, the temperature averages at 27°C (80°F) year round. Most of the Pacific area is known as the "hot land" of tropical Spanish America at heights of less than 2,000 feet (600 meters). Temperatures remain almost constant throughout the year, with highs ranging between 85° and 90 °F (32 °C). After a dry season; November to April, rains begin in May and continue to October, this gives the Pacific Lowlands 40 to 60 inches (1,000–1,500 mm) of rainfall. The country’s “temperate land," at heights between 2,000 and 5,000 feet (600–1,500 meters) and the North-Central highlands experience mild temperatures with daytime highs of 75 °F (24 °C) to 80 °F (27 °C). This regions’ rainy season is heavier and more prolonged than the Pacific Lowlands. Nicaragua's tropical east coast (Caribbean lowlands) is very different from the rest of the country; here the climate is tropical, with high temperature and high humidity.
Nicaragua has its own currency: the córdoba. The US dollar is also accepted virtually everywhere. Often prices are based on dollars but quoted in córdobas. If you pay for goods in dollars, you will receive your change in córdobas. Prices in córdobas are given using the letter 'c'. Currently, $1 USD = 21.12c. Credit cards are accepted in most stores, hotels, and restaurants throughout the country (though not in small towns and off-beat areas). You can withdraw cash from the ATMs, located in banks and gas stations in the major cities..