Official Name: Republic of Nicaragua
– 15 September 1821 (Independence from Spain)
– 01 July 1823 (Independence from Mexico)
– 31 May 1838 (Independence from Federal Republic of Central America)
Population: 6,486,201 (2019 estimate)
Religion: 55% Catholic, 27.2% Protestant, 14.7% No religion
Order of Visit: Forty-Eighth
First Visit: 20 January 2013
Last Visit: 25 January 2013
Duration: 5 Days
– Granada: Swimming in Laguna de Apoyo, exploring stone walled local market at Masaya, surviving the active Volcano National Park including exploring a bat cave, horse carriage ride, exploring the old Central Train Station, the enormous Lake Nicaragua
– Ometepe: Spellbinding sunset, homestay experience with locals, exploring the island, howler monkeys, fantastic views, relaxing in thermal springs.
Places Visited: Granada, Ometepe
Nicaragua Journal Entries
History and Geography
Covering 130,375 square kilometres Nicaragua is a country in Central America bordered by Honduras to the northwest, the Caribbean to the east, Costa Rica to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the southwest.
Paleo-Americans first inhabited what is now known as Nicaragua as far back as 12,000 BC. At the end of the 15th century, western Nicaragua was inhabited by several different indigenous peoples related by culture to the Mesoamerican civilizations of the Toltec and Maya.
In 1502, on his fourth voyage, Christopher Columbus became the first European known to have reached what is now Nicaragua as he sailed southeast toward the Isthmus of Panama. Columbus explored the Mosquito Coast on the Atlantic side of Nicaragua but did not encounter any indigenous people.
The first attempt to conquer Nicaragua was by the conquistador Gil González Dávila, who had arrived in Panama in January 1520. The first Spanish permanent settlements were founded in 1524. That year, the conquistador Francisco Hernández de Córdoba founded two of Nicaragua’s principal cities: Granada on Lake Nicaragua was the first settlement, followed by León at a location west of Lake Managua.
The Spanish conquerors took Nahua and Chorotega wives and partners, beginning the multiethnic mix of indigenous and European stock now known as “mestizo”, which constitutes the great majority of the population in western Nicaragua.
The Captaincy General of Guatemala was dissolved in September 1821 with the Act of Independence of Central America, and Nicaragua soon became part of the First Mexican Empire. After the monarchy of the First Mexican Empire was overthrown in 1823, Nicaragua joined the newly formed United Provinces of Central America, which was later renamed as the Federal Republic of Central America. Nicaragua finally became an independent republic in 1838.
During the days of the California Gold Rush, Nicaragua provided a route for travellers from the eastern United States to journey to California by sea, via the use of the San Juan River and Lake Nicaragua. Throughout the late 19th century, the United States and several European powers considered a scheme to build a canal across Nicaragua, linking the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic.
In 1909, the United States supported the conservative-led forces rebelling against President Zelaya. U.S. motives included differences over the proposed Nicaragua Canal, Nicaragua’s potential as a destabilizing influence in the region, and Zelaya’s attempts to regulate foreign access to Nicaraguan natural resources. On November 18, 1909, U.S. warships were sent to the area after 500 revolutionaries (including two Americans) were executed by order of Zelaya. The U.S. justified the intervention by claiming to protect U.S. lives and property.
United States Marines occupied Nicaragua from 1912 to 1933. When the Americans left in 1933, they set up the Guardia Nacional (national guard), a combined military and police force trained and equipped by the Americans and designed to be loyal to U.S. interests.
Nicaragua has experienced several military dictatorships, the longest being the hereditary dictatorship of the Somoza family, who ruled for 43 non-consecutive years during the 20th century. The Somoza family came to power as part of a U.S.-engineered pact in 1927 that stipulated the formation of the Guardia Nacional to replace the marines who had long reigned in the country. The Somoza family was among a few families or groups of influential firms which reaped most of the benefits of the country’s growth from the 1950s to the 1970s. When Somoza was deposed by the Sandinistas in 1979, the family’s worth was estimated to be between $500 million and $1.5 billion.
The Sandinistas forcefully took power in July 1979, ousting Somoza, and prompting the exodus of the majority of Nicaragua’s middle class, wealthy landowners, and professionals, many of whom settled in the United States. The Carter administration decided to work with the new government, while attaching a provision for aid forfeiture if it was found to be assisting insurgencies in neighbouring countries.
In the Nicaraguan general elections of 1984, which were judged to have been free and fair, the Sandinistas won the parliamentary election and their leader Daniel Ortega won the presidential election. The Reagan administration criticized the elections as a “sham” based on the charge that Arturo Cruz, the candidate nominated by the Coordinadora Democrática Nicaragüense, comprising three right wing political parties, did not participate in the elections.
After the U.S. Congress prohibited federal funding of the contras in 1983, the Reagan administration nonetheless illegally continued to back them by covertly selling arms to Iran and channelling the proceeds to the contras (the Iran–Contra affair), for which several members of the Reagan administration were convicted of felonies.
In the Nicaraguan general election, 1990, a coalition of anti-Sandinista parties (from the left and right of the political spectrum) led by Violeta Chamorro, the widow of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Cardenal, defeated the Sandinistas. The defeat shocked the Sandinistas, who had expected to win. This was the slow start to stabilising the country but political troubles still exist to these days.
What I experienced
Nicaragua is another Central American country with poor experiences with USA intervention including illegal funding of guerrilla warfare against the national government. Nicaragua still has the scars from this period.
During my visit I got to experience both the natural beauty of this country and the hospitality of locals during a two night homestay in Ometepe. The sunsets were extremely striking. This appears to be another country with natural resources and idyllic countryside but constant fighting has stopped it’s citizens from truly enjoying what they have.
A beautiful country well worth the visit.