Republic of Nicaragua
The Republic of Nicaragua, is the largest country in the Central American isthmus, bordering Costa-Rica to the south and Honduras to the north. The Pacific Ocean lies to the west, and the Atlantic Ocean (the Caribbean Sea) to the east. Its population is of about 6 million comprising 69% mestizo, 17% white, 5% Amerindian, 9% black and other races.
The name "Nicaragua" was coined by Spanish colonists based on the name Nicarao, chief of the most populous indigenous tribe in the early 16th century.
The country is divided into three major zones: Pacific lowlands; wet, cooler central highlands; and the Caribbean lowlands. Two large fresh water lakes are on the Pacific side of Nicaragua: Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua. These lakes are surrounded by the rift valley of the Gulf of Fonseca and fertile lowland plains, with soil highly enriched by ash from nearby volcanoes of the central highs.
The Spanish Empire conquered the region in the 16th century. Nicaragua achieved its independence from Spain in 1821, but it has undergone periods of political unrest, dictatorship, and fiscal crisis. The Nicaraguan Revolution made the republic a representative democracy.
The population of Nicaragua, approximately 6 million, is multiethnic. Its capital, Managua, is the third-largest city in Central America. The main language is Spanish, although native tribes on the eastern coast speak their native languages, such as Miskito, Sumo, and Rama, as well as English Creole. The mixture of cultural traditions has generated substantial diversity in art and literature.
The biological diversity, warm tropical climate, and active volcanoes make Nicaragua an increasingly popular tourist destination.
Politics of Nicaragua takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Nicaragua is both head of state and head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the National Assembly. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.
Nicaragua is a unitary republic. It is divided into 15 departments and two self-governing regions (Región Autónoma Atlántico Norte and Región Autónoma Atlántico Sur, often referred to as RAAN and RAAS, respectively). The departments are as follows Carazo (capital Jinotepe), Chinandega (Chinandega), Chontales (Juigalpa), Estelí (Estelí), Granada (Granada), Jinotega (Jinotega), Leon (Leon), Madriz (Somoto), Managua (Managua), Masaya (Masaya), Matagalpa (Matagalpa), Nueva Segovia (Ocotal), Rivas (Rivas), Río San Juan (San Carlos).
Nicaragua is primarily an agricultural country. Nearly two-thirds of the coffee crop comes from the northern part of the central highlands, in the area north and east of the town of Estelí. Soil erosion and pollution from the heavy use of pesticides have become serious concerns in the cotton district. Most of Nicaragua's bananas are grown in the northwestern part of the country near the port of Corinto; sugarcane is also grown in the same district. Cassava, a root crop somewhat similar to the potato, is an important food in tropical regions. Cassava is also the main ingredient in tapioca pudding.
Fishing boats on the Caribbean side bring shrimp as well as lobsters into processing plants at Puerto Cabezas, Bluefields, and Laguna de Perlas. A turtle fishery thrived on the Caribbean coast before it collapsed from overexploitation.
Nicaragua's minimum wage is among the lowest in the Americas and in the World. Rural workers are dependent on agricultural wage labor, especially in coffee and cotton. Only a small fraction hold permanent jobs. Most are migrants who follow crops during the harvest period and find other work they can during the off-season. Nicaragua's informal sector workers include tinsmiths, mattress makers, seamstresses, bakers, shoemakers, and carpenters; people who take in laundry and ironing or prepare food for sale in the streets; and thousands of peddlers, owners of small businesses (often operating out of their own homes), and market stall operators.
Nicaragua is a member of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas, which is also known as ALBA. ALBA has proposed creating a new currency, the Sucre, for use among its members.
The country is considering construction of a canal linking the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.
Every year about 60,000 U.S. citizens visit Nicaragua, primarily business people, tourists, and those visiting relatives. Some 5,500 people from the U.S. reside in the country now. The majority of tourists who visit Nicaragua are from the U.S., Central or South America, and Europe. According to the Ministry of Tourism of Nicaragua (INTUR), the colonial cities of León and Granada are the preferred spots for tourists. Also, the cities of Masaya, Rivas and the likes of San Juan del Sur, El Ostional, San Juan River, Ometepe, Mombacho Volcano, the Corn Islands, and others are main tourist attractions. In addition, ecotourism and surfing attract many tourists.
The main attractions in Nicaragua for tourists are the beaches, scenic routes, the architecture of cities such as León and Granada, and most recently ecotourism and agritourism, particularly in Northern Nicaragua.
Nicaragua has no official religion. Catholic Bishops are expected to lend their authority to important state occasions, and their pronouncements on national issues are closely followed. They can also be called upon to mediate between contending parties at moments of political crisis.
Two Scarlet Macow. Photo : Univers.GrandQuebec.com