The name Nicaragua
The name Nicaragua comes from a combination of two words, "nicarao" and "agua". The Nicarao are the Indian tribe that were occupying the shores of Lake Nicaragua when the Spaniards arrived in the 1500's. "Agua" is the Spanish word for water.
The Nicarao tribe originally immigrated to Nicaragua from Mexico, after the fall of the Aztec empire. According to legend, the Nicarao were directed to travel south until they found an island with two volcanoes in the middle of a lake. An interesting Nicaragua fact is that the Nicarao tribe found Ometepe Island with two volcanoes in the middle of Lake Nicaragua, realized they had found the promised land, and then settled on the shores of Lake Nicaragua.
Lake Nicaragua is the second largest lake in Latin America, the largest freshwater lake in Central America and houses the world's only freshwater sharks known as Nicaraguan shark.
Nicaragua is unique in that it is the only country in Latin America that was colonised by two powers. The western side was colonised by Spain (1524) whilst the eastern side, or Caribbean coast, was colonised by Great Britain (1625).
The estimated population of Nicaragua is 5.9 million people. 36% of the population is under the age of 14, and the median age is 21 years. Literacy rate is 70%, and life expectancy is 70 years.
Nicaragua geography include many volcanoes, lakes and rivers. It covers 50,193 square miles. Nicaragua is similar in size to North Carolina or New York State or England.
Nicaragua does not have states or provinces, but has fifteen Nicaragua departamentos. It also has two autonomous self-governing regions (similar to Indian tribal reservations) known as the RAAN. and the RAAS. on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua.
The Nicaragua currency is called the Córdoba. It is named after the Spanish conquistador, Francisco Hernandez de Córdoba. Charged with treason, he was beheaded in 1526. As of July 2010, one US dollar equals 21.8 Nicaraguan Córdobas.
Christopher Columbus arrived on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua in 1502, in his fourth voyage to the Americas. The Spanish did not settle in Nicaragua until 1524, when Francisco Hernandez de Córdoba arrived with Spanish colonists. His mission was to settle Nicaragua and turn it into a colony of Spain, to become part of Spain's Mexican empire.
Nicaragua gained independence from Spain after the Mexican revolution ended in September 15, 1821. September 15th is celebrated as Independence Day and is a national holiday in Nicaragua. After Independence from Spain, Nicaragua first became part of the United Provinces of Central America, then evolved into the Independent Republic of Nicaragua in 1838.
An American who became President of Nicaragua
Nicaragua had an American president in the 1850s. In 1856 William Walker, an American, declared himself President of Nicaragua and tried to turn Nicaragua into a slave state for the United States. He also decreed that English should become the official language. Walker was kicked out of Nicaragua in 1857 by Nicaraguans and fellow American, Cornelius Vanderbilt. He was executed by firing squad in Honduras in 1860.
The majority of Nicaraguans (72%) are Roman Catholic - in 1983, Pope John Paul II visited Nicaragua. 16% of the population are Evangelical Christians, and the remainder are a mixture of other religions and atheists. The Episcopalians, Baptists, and Seventh Day Adventists, are beginning to build churches in Nicaragua. A small Jewish population also celebrates religious services in a house in Managua.
Largest cities in Nicaragua
Managua is the capital of Nicaragua and is its largest city, with a population of 1.85 million people. León is the second largest city with an estimated population of 175,000 people. Then come Masaya (146,000), Chinandega (122,000) and Granada (110,000).