Nicaragua takes its name from Nicarao, cheif of the indigenous tribe then living around present day Lake Nicaragua. Nicaragua's two principal towns: Granada on Lake Nicaragua, and Leon, east of Lake Managua were founded in 1524 by Hernandez de Cordoba. Nicaragua gained its independence from Spain in 1821 and in 1838 it became an independent republic.In 1893, Jose Zulu led a Liberal revolt that brought him to power.
Area: 130,688 sq. km. (50,446 sq. mi. ) ; slightly larger than New York State.
Cities: Capital --Managua (pop. 1 million). Other cities-- Leon , Granada, Jinotega, Matagalpa, Chinandega, Masaya.
Terrain : Extensive Atlantic coastal plains rising to central interior mountains; narrow Pacific coastal plain interrupted by volcanoes.
Climate: Tropical in lowlands, cooler in highlands.
Nationality: noun and adjective--Nicaraguan(s).
Population: 4.48 million.
Annual growth rate (1995) : 2.9. Density: 33 per sq. km.
Ethnic groups: Mestizo (mixed European an indigenous) 69%, white 17%, black (Jamacian origin) 9%, indigenous 5%.
Religion: Roman Catholic 85%.
Languages: Spanish (official), English and indigenous languages on Caribbean coast.
Education: Years compulsory--none enforced (28% 1st graders eventually finish 6th grade). Literacy--75%.
Health: Life expectancy--62 yrs. Infant mortality rate--50/1,000.
Work force (1996): 1.7 million. Unemployed--16%. Underemployed--36%.
GDP (1996) :2.3 billion..
Annual growth rate (1997): 5.0%.
Per capita GDP: $452.
Natural resources: Arable land, livestock, fisheries, gold, timber.
Agriculture (35% of GDP): Products--corn, coffee, sugar, meat, rice, beans, bananas.
Industry (20% of GDP) : Type-- processed food , beverages, textiles, petroleum, and metal products.
Services (45%of GDP) : Types--commerce, construction, government, banking, transportation, and energy.
Trades (199):Exports_-$671 million (FOB): coffee, seafood, beef, sugar, industrial goods, gold, bananas.
Niacaragua's history has been characterized by two things--instability and oppression. Ruthless dictators, corruption, and turmoil have been the norm. In addition to wars and rebellions, natural disasters have led to the distruction of the capital city of Managua twice in the last century, a tsunami plundered two Pacific cities, and the Juana hurricane recently devastated the Atlantic coast. Fortunately, the course of history has changed drastically in recent years and Nicaragua has begun to break the historical mold around her. In 1990, the Sandinistas, who had come into power by way of violent rebellion handed over the power to the democratically elected Violeta Chamorro of their own accord--thus enacting the first elections and then peacefully stepping down from power.
The country has had legitimate democratic elections in the past, but the president would invariably be overthrown by a dictator before the next election. In 1997, however, the transfer of power between Violeta Chammorro and Arnoldo Aleman was the very first time in Nicaragua's history that this office was transferred peacefully and democratically from one democratically elected individual to another. Everyone hopes that this transfer is symbolic of peace in the future.
Interesting factual dates of Nicaragua:
-1509: Spanish settlers arrive in Panama. By 1524, the Spanish have moved into the rest of Central America.
-1823-1824: Agustin I overthrown; Mexico becomes a republic. Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador form the Central American Federation.
-1825: U.S. and Central American Federation sign a treaty of friendship which is ratified the following year.
-1829-1838: Political conflict between federation members and the capital increases. In 1838, Central American Congress allows states to leave the federation; Nicaragua, Honduras, and Costa Rica.
-1903: The U.S. negotiates the Panama Canal Treaty and establishes control over the canal zone.
-1932: An earthquake destroyes the capital city of Managua.
-1937: Somoza officially becomes president.
-1961: The Sandinista National Liberation Front is founded in Nicragua.
-1967:Anastasio Somoza Debayle is"elected" President of Nicaragua.
-1969: A war breaks out between El Salvador and Honduras causing the collapse of the Comman Market.
-1978: U.S. and OAS fail in mediation attempts with Nicaragua; U.S. suspends military aid to Somoza.
-1981: The US ends aid to Nicaragua after finding evidence that Nicaragua after finding evidence that Nicaragua, Cuba, and the Soviet Union are supplying arms to Salvadorian rebels.
-1984: Daniel Ortega, leader of the FSLN, is "elected" president of Nicaragua.
-1986: The Nicaraguan government closes La Prensa , an opposition newspaper. A plane carrying US military supplies to the Contras is shot down and the only American survivor is captured. The US government announces that contrary to the Boland Amendment, the US has been providing military aid to the Contras. The supplies were purchased with funds diverted form the sale of US arms to Iran. The covert operation became known as the Iran-Contra affair.
-1990: Violeta Barios Chamorro of the UNO party (National Opposition Union) defeats the FSLN's Daniel Ortega in internationally observed presidential elections. Sandinistas and Contras sign a permanent cease-fire. The Contras begin to demobilize.
-1997: Arnoldo Aleman is inaugurated as President with around 49 percent of the vote compared to Daniel Ortega's 39 percent, thus completing the first democratic and peaceful transfer of the presidency in Nicaragua's history.