Nicaragua – Pro and Contra

Nicaragua is a Central American nation of approximately 5.5 million people that was first discovered by Spanish conquistadors in the 1520s. Nicaragua’s friendly, hard-working people boast a variety of ethnic heritages in addition to the predominant Spanish and native Amerindian.

Nicaragua achieved independence from Spain in 1821 and was a founding member of the United Provinces of Central America, an unwieldy federation that collapsed in 1840. American adventurer William Walker and his band of “soldiers of fortune” briefly took over Nicaragua in 1856 but were forcibly expelled the following year.

Managua, the nation’s capital, was severely damaged by a 1972 earthquake that cost the lives of over 10,000 citizens. The city’s downtown core has never been rebuilt. Among Nicaragua’s other cities are Granada and Leon in the west and Bluefields on the Caribbean (eastern) coast. The name “Bluefields” may seem out of place in a Latin American country. The town’s name, people and culture owe much to a longstanding British presence along the entire “Mosquito Coast” that dates back to the early 17th century.

Nicaragua’s geography ranges from fertile plains along the Pacific coast to mountains and highlands in the center, dropping off to one of the world’s largest rainforest areas in the eastern part of the country. Major economic activity is centered on agriculture, rum distilling and tourism. The country has lately achieved a measure of political stability and has posted strong rates of growth, but in many ways is still recovering from the devastating “Contra War” of the 1980s.