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NicaraguaNicaragua's name is a combination of two words; the first part being named after an indigenous leader, Nicarao, who ruled in the early 1500s on the shores of what is today known as Lake Nicaragua. The last part of the name is the Spanish word for water, agua, perhaps referring to the nearby lake.


Nicaragua is a fairly mountainous and elevated country, which has actually encouraged settlement and population growth over time. Along the Pacific Ocean coast the elevation provides cooler weather, great water sources, and fertile lands, which was enough for many prehistoric settlers to call the lands home. Much of the rest of the country is covered in forests or mountains, which makes these areas less ideal for human development and hence more sparsely populated.

When the Spanish arrived to Nicaragua the people were somewhat isolated due to the forests and mountains, however in more accessible areas transportation was developed. Due to this situation, the indigenous people in the region shared many cultural commonalities with people from neighboring areas, but there were also many differences, giving these people unique and individual cultures.

These local cultures were forever changed when the Spanish arrived from the west, where the land is more accessible, and later overtook all the people in the region. Prior to ever seeing the Spanish, many indigenous people died from European diseases and later many more people died from wars while others were enslaved to work for the Spanish. This destroyed most of the historic cultural aspects the people clung to, while Spanish culture and influence took over the region and people.

Most of the Spanish settled in the western part of the region, where they continued on the path of a developing Spanish-American culture. However others intermarried the locals, creating the country's majority today, the "mestizos." This mix of people resulted in Spanish being the primarily language of communication and most people converting to Catholicism. However, people on both sides of this group maintained traditional dress, languages, and cultures as nearly 20% of Nicaragua's population is entirely European descent and a smaller percentage is entirely descended from indigenous groups, both of which cling to cultural aspects from their past.

More than just introducing their own cultural traits and tendencies, the Spanish also introduced African cultures through the slave trade. As a people focused on economic growth and increasing wealth, the Spanish at the time required labor so brought in Africans to serve as slaves. While these people only made up a small percentage of the population and most of them later intermarried the people from the region, they also introduced some cultural aspects and a more diverse ethnicity.

Despite the diversity of the people and their culture, today most of the people of Nicaragua still live simple lives based off the land as agriculture is the dominant force driving the economy. Like the past, the people tend to live in agricultural zones or in the cities in the country's west as the eastern part of the country is more difficult to settle or remains too hot to live comfortably.

Information for Nicaragua was last updated: March, 2014 ● View our: Sources & Special Thanks