Our Central America tour (6): Nicaragua

In 1522, the Spanish explorer Gil Gonzalez de Avila named Nicaragua after a local indian chief called Nicarao. During the 17th and 18th centuries, the British had influence over the Caribbean coast and Nicaragua became fully independent in 1838 (when it became the first country to leave the United Provinces of Central America).

The Somoza family dynasty ruled the country between 1937 and the Sandinista revolution in 1979. Roger Spottiswoode’s 1983 film “Under Fire” gave a portrayal this revolution. When the Sandinistas took power, they were opposed militarily by the US-backed Contras, but in 1990 the Sandinistas were defeated in elections held as part of a peace agreement.

The population is 6 million – known as Nicas – and the capital is Managua. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere after Haiti. Hurricane Mitch in 1998 left 20% of the population homeless. However, it is known as one of the safest countries in Latin America.

Former Marxist guerrilla leader Daniel Ortega served as president from 1985-1990, made a come back as president in 2006, and was re-elected in a landslide victory in 2011. He has aligned Nicaragua with Russia and the anti-US bloc in Latin America.


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