Nicaragua 2

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In the west of the country, these lowlands consist of a broad, hot, fertile plain. Punctuating this plain are several large volcanoes of the Cordillera Los Maribios mountain range, including Mombacho just outside Granada, and Momotombo near León. The lowland area runs from the Gulf of Fonseca to Nicaragua's Pacific border with Costa Rica south of Lake Nicaragua. Lake Nicaragua is the largest freshwater lake in Central America (20th largest in the world),Sony VAIO PCG-7152L battery and is home to some of the world's only freshwater sharks (Nicaraguan shark).[107] The Pacific lowlands region is the most populous, with over half of the nation's population. The capital city of Managua is the most populous and is the only city with over 1.5 million inhabitants.

Scarlet Tanager passing through Nicaragua around April, and again around October.

The eruptions of western Nicaragua's 40 volcanoes, many of which are still active, have sometimes devastated settlements but also have enriched the land with layers of fertile ashSony VAIO PCG-7151L battery. The geologic activity that produces vulcanism also breeds powerful earthquakes. Tremors occur regularly throughout the Pacific zone, and earthquakes have nearly destroyed the capital city, Managua, more than once.

Most of the Pacific zone is tierra caliente, the "hot land" of tropical Spanish America at elevations under 2,000 feet (610 m). Temperatures remain virtually constant throughout the year, with highs ranging between 85 and 90 °F (29.4 and 32.2 °C) Sony VAIO PCG-7148L battery. After a dry season lasting from November to April, rains begin in May and continue to October, giving the Pacific lowlands 40 to 60 inches (1,016 to 1,524 mm) of precipitation. Good soils and a favorable climate combine to make western Nicaragua the country's economic and demographic center. The southwestern shore of Lake Nicaragua lies within 15 miles (24 km) of the Pacific OceanSony VAIO VGN-CS27 battery. Thus the lake and the San Juan River were often proposed in the 19th century as the longest part of a canal route across the Central American isthmus. Canal proposals were periodically revived in the 20th and 21st centuries. Roughly a century after the opening of the Panama Canal, the prospect of a Nicaraguan ecocanal remains a topic of interest.

In addition to its beach and resort communities, the Pacific lowlands contains most of Nicaragua's Spanish colonial architecture and artifactsSony VAIO VGN-CS27/W battery. Cities such as León and Granada abound in colonial architecture; founded in 1524, Granada is the oldest colonial city in the Americas.[114]

[edit]North-central highlands

The central highlands are a significantly less populated and economically developed area in the north, between Lake Nicaragua and the Caribbean. Forming the country's tierra templada, or "temperate land", at elevations between 2,000 and 5,000 feet (610 and 1,524 m), the highlands enjoy mild temperatures with daily highs ofSony VAIO VGN-CS27/R battery

75 to 80 °F (23.9 to 26.7 °C). This region has a longer, wetter rainy season than the Pacific lowlands, making erosion a problem on its steep slopes. Rugged terrain, poor soils, and low population density characterize the area as a whole, but the northwestern valleys are fertile and well settledSony VAIO VGN-CS27/P battery.

The area has a cooler climate than the Pacific lowlands. About a quarter of the country's agriculture takes place in this region, with coffee grown on the higher slopes. Oaks, pines, moss, ferns and orchids are abundant in the cloud forests of the region.

Bird life in the forests of the central region includes Resplendent Quetzal, goldfinches, hummingbirds, jays and toucanetsSony VAIO VGN-CS27/C battery.

Caribbean lowlands

This large rainforest region is irrigated by several large rivers and is sparsely populated. The area has 57% of the territory of the nation and most of its mineral resources. It has been heavily exploited, but much natural diversity remains. The Rio Coco is the largest river in Central America; it forms the border with Honduras. The Caribbean coastline is much more sinuous than its generally straight Pacific counterpart; lagoons and deltas make it very irregularSony VAIO VGN-CS26T/W battery.

Nicaragua's Bosawás Biosphere Reserve is in the Atlantic lowlands; it protects 1,800,000 acres (728,434 ha) of La Mosquitia forest – almost 7% of the country's area – making it the largest rainforest north of the Amazon in Brazil.[115]

Nicaragua's tropical east coast is very different from the rest of the country. The climate is predominantly tropical, with high temperature and high humidity. Around the area's principal city of Bluefields, English is widely spoken along with the official SpanishSony VAIO VGN-CS21Z/Q battery. The population more closely resembles that found in many typical Caribbean ports than the rest of Nicaragua.

A great variety of birds can be observed including eagles, turkeys, toucans, parakeets and macaws. Animal life in the area includes different species of monkeys, anteaters, white-tailed deer and tapirs.

Graphical depiction of Nicaragua's product exports in 28 color coded categories.

The seaport in Corinto, Nicaragua is the country's only deep-water port capable of handling container ships and tankersSony VAIO VGN-CS21S/W battery

Trains were once the main mode of transport for goods. tracks were sold for scrap. The remaining train engines in Nicaragua now serve as tourist attractions, as seen here in Granada, Nicaragua.

Nicaragua is primarily an agricultural country; agriculture constitutes 60% of its total exports which annually yield approximately US $2.0 billion.[116] In addition, Nicaragua's Flor de Caña rum is renowned as among the best in Latin AmericaSony VAIO VGN-CS21S/V battery, and its tobacco and beef are also well regarded. Nicaragua's agrarian economy has historically been based on the export of cash crops such as coffee, beef and tobacco. Light industry (maquila), tourism, banking, mining, fisheries, and general commerce are expanding. Nicaragua also depends heavily on remittances from Nicaraguans living abroad, which totaled $655.5 million in 2006Sony VAIO VGN-CS21S/T battery.

On the Pacific side, coffee and cotton are by far the most important commercial crops. In 1992, more land was devoted to coffee than to any other crop, and it is the nation's leading export in terms of value. 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 EstelíSony VAIO VGN-CS21S/R battery.

In the early 1980s, cotton became Nicaragua's second-largest export earner. Production is centered on large farms along the central Pacific coast. Unfortunately, the growth of the cotton industry has created serious problems. Soil erosion and pollution from the heavy use of pesticides have become serious concerns in the cotton district. Yields and exports have both been declining since 1985Sony VAIO VGN-CS21S/P battery.

Plantation crops are significant in the Caribbean lowlands. After disease wiped out most of the region's banana plants in the years before 1945, attempts were made to diversify crops. Today 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. Subsistence farms, where food is grown mainly for the consumption of the farm family instead of for saleSony VAIO VGN-CS215J/R battery, are found throughout Nicaragua. Favorite food crops grown on such farms include rice, beans, maize, citrus fruits, and cassava. Cassava, a root crop somewhat similar to the potato, is an important food in tropical regions. The plant's roots can be eaten boiled and sliced, or ground into flour. Cassava is also the main ingredient in tapioca puddingSony VAIO VGN-CS16T/Q battery.

The Pacific lowlands and the middle and southern parts of the Central highlands are the principal cattle-grazing areas. An especially large number of cattle are found to the east of Lake Nicaragua.

Nicaragua's economy has also grown due to the emigration of retirees from parts of North America and Europe. The influx of incoming residents has generated the construction of residencies and commercial services throughout the countrySony VAIO VGN-CS16T/P battery. Illustrated above are the residencies of Viejo Santo Domingo, which are some of the country's high-end residencies.

Beginning in the 1960s, shrimp became big business on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. The main shrimping centers on the Pacific coast are Corinto and San Juan del Sur. Fishing boats on the Caribbean side bring shrimp as well as lobsters into processing plants at Puerto Cabezas, Bluefields, and Laguna de PerlasSony VAIO VGN-CS13T/W battery.

The lumber industry, concentrated mainly in the eastern third of the country, has been lethargic since 1980, with its activities limited by several problems. First, the best trees in the most accessible places have already been cut down. In addition, pure groves of trees are uncommon in tropical forests. Hundreds of species per acre are generally the ruleSony VAIO VGN-CS13H/W battery, complicating the task of harvesting. Moreover, the most valuable dense hardwoods will not float. As a result, these trees must be trucked out of the forest rather than floated downriver to a sawmill. Finally, more restrictions are being placed on lumbering due to increased environmental concerns about destruction of the rain forests. But lumbering continues despite these obstacles; indeed, a single hardwood tree may be worth thousands of dollarsSony VAIO VGN-CS13H/Q battery.

Political turmoil has had a severe impact on the mining industry. Exports of gold are down, and little effort has been made to develop the large copper deposits of the northeast. Fighting during the revolution destroyed nearly one-third of Nicaragua's industry. As it rebuilds, the government is trying to change the industrial mix of the country and achieve decentralizationSony VAIO VGN-CS13H/P battery. Before the revolution, more than 60% of the nation's industrial production, by value, was concentrated in Managua. The industrial-decentralization policy may help to slow the growth of the largest cities, while assisting in the redistribution of income and development of economies in impoverished areas. Major industries include food processing, cement production, metal fabricationSony VAIO VGN-CS11Z/T battery, and oil refining. The Centroamérica power plant on the Tuma River in the Central highlands has been expanded, and other hydroelectric projects have been undertaken to help provide electricity to the nation's newer industries.

The economic core of Nicaragua is in the Pacific zone, and the railway and highway network reflects that concentration of activity. The government-owned rail system—an inefficient money loser—is gradually being replaced by truck transportSony VAIO VGN-CS11Z/R battery. Transportation throughout the rest of the nation is often inadequate. For example, one cannot travel all the way by highway from Managua to the Caribbean coast. The road ends at the town of Rama. Travelers have to transfer and make the rest of the trip by riverboat down the Río Escondido—a five-hour journeySony VAIO VGN-CS11S/W battery.

Corinto is the only modern deepwater port in Nicaragua. It handles both agricultural exports and general-cargo imports. Petroleum is unloaded at Puerto Sandino, from which it travels by pipeline to a refinery in Managua. Trade with other nations in Central America has increased in recent years. Nicaragua has long been considered as a possible site for a new sea-level canal that could supplement the Panama CanalSony VAIO VGN-CS11S/Q battery.

Components of the economy

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in purchasing power parity (PPP) in 2008 was estimated at $17.37 billion USD.[3] The service sector is the largest component of GDP at 56.9%, followed by the industrial sector at 26.1% (2006 est.). Agriculture represents 17% of GDP, the highest percentage in Central America [117] (2008 est.). Remittances account for over 15% of the Nicaraguan GDP. Close to one billion dollars are sent to the country by Nicaraguans living abroad.Sony VAIO VGN-CS11S/P batteryNicaraguan labor force is estimated at 2.322 million of which 29% is occupied in agriculture, 19% in the industrial sector and 52% in the service sector (est. 2008).

A Nicaraguan farmer

After 1950 the scope of capital-intensive modern agriculture increased greatly. This growth was concentrated in export crops, while crops destined for domestic use continued to be produced by traditional labor-intensive methods. The shift to industrialized agriculture also significantly reduced the proportion of the population directly dependent on agriculture(Sony VAIO VGN-AW11M/H battery).

Commercial agriculture thrives in the Pacific lowlands, where cotton and sugarcane are the staple crops. Although coffee is grown in the Pacific zone at elevations over 1,000 feet (300 meters), the most important coffee zone is the northwestern part of the Central highlands, from Matagalpa to Jinotega. Cattle for the export of beef are raised in the southeastern part of the highlands(Sony VAIO VGN-AW11S/B battery). The overall expansion of export production by large landholders pushed the smallholders who produced the country's maize, beans, and other dietary staples onto marginal lands, with the result that food production could not keep up with population increase.

In the 1990s the government initiated efforts to diversify agriculture. Some of the new export-oriented crops were peanuts, sesame, melons, and onions. (Sony VAIO VGN-AW11Z/B battery)

Nicaragua's agricultural sector has benefited because of the country's strong ties to Venezuela. It is estimated that Venezuela will import approximately $200 million in agricultural goods.[119]

Shrimp is one of the main marine export products of the Nicaraguan economy.

Forestry and fishing are the bases of the eastern seaboard's commercial economy. In national terms, neither sector was important until the take-off of the fishing industry in the late 20th century(Sony VAIO VGN-AW19/Q battery). Mahogany was harvested commercially on the Atlantic coast beginning early in the 19th century. In the 20th century pine stands began to be exploited. In neither case, though, was the resource managed so as to ensure a sustained yield.

Nicaragua's fishing industry operates off both coasts and in freshwater Lake Nicaragua. The lake also has an aquaculture industry. The most valuable catches are shrimp and spiny lobster. The government expanded the size of the fishing fleet in the 1980s(Sony VAIO VGN-AW19 battery), which permitted a rapid expansion of shrimp and lobster exports in the 1990s. A turtle fishery thrived on the Caribbean coast before it collapsed from overexploitation.

Mining and the production of energy

Mining is not a major industry in Nicaragua,[120] contributing less than 1% of gross domestic product (GDP). Still, gold and silver mines in the north-central and northeastern parts of the country are important elements of regional economies and constitute sources of revenue(Sony VAIO VGN-AW21M/H battery). Important domestic sources of electrical energy are hydropower and geothermal power, the latter from the volcano Momotombo, near Managua. But most commercial electricity is generated by imported petroleum.

Although the manufacturing sector of the economy contributes somewhat more to GDP than agriculture, it employs far fewer people. It was traditionally concerned largely with the processing of agricultural products(Sony VAIO VGN-AW21S/B battery), and it supplied the domestic market with foods, beverages, edible oils, cigarettes, and textile goods. Also manufactured were light metal goods, construction materials, wood and paper products, and chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides.

The manufacturing sector was expanded beyond these areas in the 1990s with the introduction of maquila industries, in which imported parts are assembled for reexport. The principal products were garments, footwear, aluminum frames, and jewelry(SONY Vaio VGN-NS38M Battery). Growth in the maquila sector slowed in the first decade of the 21st century with rising competition from Asian markets, particularly China.

Economic development in the 21st century

Nicaragua has widespread underemployment and the second lowest per capita income in the Americas. The US-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) has been in effect since April 2006 and has expanded export opportunities for many agricultural and manufactured goods. Textiles and apparel account for nearly 60% of Nicaragua's exports(SONY Vaio VGN-NS31S Battery), but recent increases in the minimum wage have a strong possibility of eroding Nicaragua's comparative advantage in this industry. Nicaragua's minimum wage is among the lowest in the Americas and in the World.

Nicaragua relies on international economic assistance to meet internal and external debt financing obligations. In early 2004, Nicaragua secured some $4.5 billion in foreign debt reduction under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative(SONY Vaio VGN-NS31M Battery). In October 2007, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a new Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility program. Despite the support, severe budget shortfalls resulting from the suspension of large amounts of direct budget support from foreign donors concerned with recent political developments has caused a slowdown in PRGF disbursements(SONY Vaio VGN-NS31Z Battery).

Similarly, private sector concerns surrounding Daniel Ortega's handling of economic issues have dampened investment. Economic growth has slowed in 2009, due to decreased export demand from the US and Central American markets from the overall recession, lower commodity prices for key agricultural exports, and low remittance growth. Remittances are equivalent to roughly 15% of the country's Gross Domestic Product. (SONY Vaio VGN-NS21Z Battery)

Nicaragua, the poorest country in Central America and the second poorest in the Hemisphere, has widespread underemployment and poverty. The US-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) has been in effect since April 2006 and has expanded export opportunities for many agricultural and manufactured goods. Nicaragua relies on international economic assistance to meet internal- and external-debt financing obligations(SONY Vaio VGN-NS21M Battery). Foreign donors have curtailed this funding, however, citing accusations of fraud in the November 2008 elections. In early 2004, Nicaragua secured some $4.5 billion in foreign debt reduction under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative. Managua still struggles with a high public debt burden, however, it succeeded in reducing that burden substantially in 2011. The economy grew at a rate of about 4% in 2011(SONY Vaio VGN-NS21S Battery).

Nicaragua is among the poorest countries in the Americas. Nicaragua's nominal GDP stands at 6.554 for 2009 and increasing to 8.532 by 2014.[citation needed] Nicaragua's GDP (PPP) 16.709 billion and the GDP per capita is $1,028 for Nicaragua.

According to the United Nations Development Programme, 48% of the population in Nicaragua live below the poverty line,[128] 79.9% of the population live with less than $2 per day, (SONY Vaio VGN-NS12S Battery) unemployment is 3.9%, and another 46.5% are underemployed (2008 est.). As in many other developing countries, a large segment of the economically poor in Nicaragua are women. In addition, a relatively high proportion of Nicaragua's homes have a woman as head of household: 39% of urban homes and 28% of rural homes. According to UN figures, 80% of the indigenous people (who make up 5% of the population) live on less than $1 per day. (SONY Vaio VGN-NS12M Battery)According to the FAO, 27% of all Nicaraguans are suffering from undernourishment; the highest percentage in Central America.

During the war between the US-backed Contras and the government of the Sandinistas in the 1980s, much of the country's infrastructure was damaged or destroyed.[131] Inflation averaged 30% throughout the 1980s. After the United States imposed a trade embargo in 1985, which lasted 5 years, Nicaragua's inflation rate rose dramatically(SONY Vaio VGN-NS11Z Battery). The 1985 annual rate of 220% tripled the following year and rose to more than 13,000% in 1988, the highest rate for any country in the Western Hemisphere in that year.

The country is still a recovering economy and it continues to implement further reforms to improve profits for foreign businesses, on which aid from the IMF is conditional. In 2005 finance ministers of the leading eight industrialized nations (G8) agreed to forgive some of Nicaragua's foreign debt(SONY Vaio VGN-NS11M Battery), as part of the HIPC program. According to the World Bank, Nicaragua's GDP was around $4.9 billion US dollars. In March 2007, Poland and Nicaragua signed an agreement to write off 30.6 million dollars which was borrowed by the Nicaraguan government in the 1980s. Since the end of the war almost two decades ago, more than 350 state enterprises have been privatized. Inflation reduced from 33,500% in 1988 to 9.45% in 2006, and the foreign debt was cut in half(SONY Vaio VGN-NS11L Battery).

According to the World Bank, Nicaragua ranked as the 62nd best economy for starting a business: making it the second best in Central America, after Panama.[134] Nicaragua's economy is "62.7% free" with high levels of fiscal, government, labor, investment, financial, and trade freedom.[135] It ranks as the 61st freest economy, and 14th (of 29) in the Americas(SONY Vaio VGN-NS11J Battery).

Main article: Nicaraguan córdoba

Nicaragua uses polymer banknotes in its circulated currency. Illustrated here is a 50 córdoba banknote.

During the era of the Spanish colonial rule, and for more than 50 years afterward, Nicaragua used Spanish coins that were struck for use in the "New World". The first unique coins for Nicaragua were issued in 1878 in the peso denomination(SONY Vaio VGN-NS11E Battery). The córdoba became Nicaragua's currency in 1912 and was initially equal in value to the U.S. dollar. The Córdoba was named after Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, the national founder. The front of each of Nicaragua's circulating coins features the national coat of arms. The five volcanoes represent the five Central American countries at the time of Nicaragua's independence(SONY Vaio VGN-NS10L Battery); the rainbow at the top symbolizes peace; and the cap in the center is a symbol of freedom. The design is contained within a triangle to indicate equality. The back of each coin features the denomination, with the inscription En Dios Confiamos (In God We Trust).

Nicaragua is the first country in the Americas to successfully overhaul production of its paper currency in favor of polymer banknotes(SONY Vaio VGN-NS10J Battery). Polymer banknotes were issued in 2009 to reduce the need to reprint banknotes, combat counterfeiting and introduce a more hygienic currency. The previously issued banknotes are still accepted as legal tender. However, unlike previous banknote series, the current series does not have any illustration of politicians. Rather, the current currency series celebrates the country's landmarks, history and culture(SONY Vaio VGN-NS10E Battery).

Conversion to the SUCRE

Main articles: Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas and SUCRE (currency)

Nicaragua is currently 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. In essence, this means that the Nicaraguan córdoba will be replaced with the Sucre. Members must make their local currency deposits in Caracas, to enter into force on sucre(SONY Vaio VGN-NS38M/W Battery). The monetary union first will be virtual, to be used only among the states for inter-regional trade. It will then be used in print form. The ALBA-Sucre union is similar to that of the Euro of the European Union.

Other nations that will follow a similar pattern include: Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Honduras, Cuba, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda. (SONY Vaio VGN-NS38M/P Battery)

Main article: Tourism in Nicaragua

By 2006, tourism in Nicaragua had become the second largest industry in the nation,[137] over the last 7 years tourism has grown about 70% nationwide with rates of 10%–16% annually.[138] Nicaragua had seen positive growth in the tourism sector over the last decade, and it became the first largest industry in 2007. The increase and growth led to the income from tourism to rise more than 300% over a period of 10 years. (SONY Vaio VGN-NS31Z/W Battery) The growth in tourism has also positively affected the agricultural, commercial, and finance industries, as well as the construction industry.

Gazebo of Selva Negra Mountain Resort in Matagalpa.

Every year about 60,000 U.S. citizens visit Nicaragua, primarily business people, tourists, and those visiting relatives.[140] Some 5,300 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), (SONY Vaio VGN-NS31Z/S Battery) 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, San Juan River, Ometepe, Mombacho Volcano, the Corn Islands, and others are main tourist attractions. In addition, ecotourism and surfing attract many tourists to Nicaragua(SONY Vaio VGN-NS31Z/P Battery).

According to TV Noticias (news program) on Canal 2, a Nicaragua television station, 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.[138] As a result of increased tourism, Nicaragua has seen its foreign direct investment increase by 79.1% from 2007 to 2009(SONY Vaio VGN-NS31S/S Battery).

Population

According to the CIA World Factbook, population of 5,891,199; comprising mainly 69% mestizo, 17% white, 5% Amerindian, 9.0% black and other races and this fluctuates with changes in migration patterns. The population is 84% urban[citation needed]. The life expectancy was 71.90 years in 2011,[143] a figure roughly equivalent to that of Vietnam and Palau. The infant mortality rate stood at 25.5, roughly equivalent to that of the Marshall Islands and Paraguay. (SONY Vaio VGN-NS31M/W Battery)

Nicaraguan girls at a concert in Managua.

Nicaragua appears ranked 91st in the international mortality rate, which places it between the world average and Panama.[145]

The most populous city in Nicaragua is the capital, Managua, with a population of 1.8 million (2005) and an estimated 2.2 by 2010 and more than 2.5 mill for the metro area. As of 2005, over 7.0 million inhabitants live in the Pacific, Central and North regions, 5.5 in the Pacific region alone, while inhabitants in the Caribbean region reached an estimated 700,000. (SONY Vaio VGN-NS31M/P Battery)

There is a growing expatriate community[147] the majority of whom move for business, investment or retirement from all across the world, such as from the US, Canada, Taiwan, and various European countries; the majority have settled in Managua, Granada and San Juan del Sur.

Many Nicaraguans live abroad, particularly in the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, and Canada. (SONY Vaio VGN-NS21Z/S Battery)

Nicaragua has a population growth rate of 1.8% as of 2008.[citation needed] This is the result of one of the highest birth rates in the Western Hemisphere: 24.9 per 1,000 according to the United Nations for the period 2005–2010.[citation needed] The death rate is 4.1 per 1,000 during the same period according to the United Nations(SONY Vaio VGN-NS21S/W Battery).

An African-Nicaraguan

The majority of the Nicaraguan population, (86% or approximately 5.06 million people), is either Mestizo or White. 69% are Mestizos (mixed Amerindian and European) and 17% of European origin, the majority of Spanish, German, Italian, English or French ancestry. Mestizos and Whites mainly reside in the western region of the country(SONY Vaio VGN-NS21S/S Battery).

About 9% of Nicaragua's population are black, and mainly reside on the country's sparsely populated Caribbean or Atlantic coast. The black population is mostly composed of black English-speaking Creoles who are the descendents of escaped or shipwrecked slaves; many carry the name of Scottish settlers who brought slaves with them, such as Campbell, Gordon(SONY Vaio VGN-NS21M/W Battery), Downs and Hodgeson. Although many Creoles supported Somoza because of his close association with the US, they rallied to the Sandinista cause in July 1979 only to reject the revolution soon afterwards in response to a new phase of 'westernization' and imposition of central rule from Managua.[149] Nicaragua has the largest African diaspora population in Central America. There is also a smaller number of Garifuna, a people of mixed West African, Carib and Arawak descent(SONY Vaio VGN-NS21M/P Battery). In the mid-1980s, the government divided the department of Zelaya – consisting of the eastern half of the country – into two autonomous regions and granted the black and indigenous people of this region limited self-rule within the Republic.

The remaining 5% of Nicaraguans are Amerindians, the unmixed descendants of the country's indigenous inhabitants. Nicaragua's pre-Columbian population consisted of many indigenous groups. In the western region the Nicarao people, after whom the country is named(SONY Vaio VGN-NS12S/S Battery), were present along with other groups related by culture and language to the Mayans. The Caribbean coast of Nicaragua was inhabited by indigenous peoples who were mostly chibcha related groups that had migrated from South America, primarily present day Colombia and Venezuela. These groups include the Miskitos, Ramas and Sumos. In the 19th century, there was a substantial indigenous minority, but this group was also largely assimilated culturally into the mestizo majority(SONY Vaio VGN-NS12M/W Battery).

Palestinian Nicaraguans celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Nicaraguan revolution in Managua waving Palestinian and Sandinista flags

Relative to its overall population, Nicaragua has never experienced any large-scale immigrant waves. The total number of immigrants to Nicaragua, both originating from other Latin American countries and all other countries, never surpassed 1% of its total population prior to 1995. The 2005 census showed the foreign-born population at 1.2%, having risen a mere(SONY Vaio VGN-NS12M/S Battery) .06% in 10 years.[146]

In the 19th century Nicaragua experienced modest waves of immigration from Europe. In particular, families from Germany, Italy, Spain, France and Belgium immigrated to Nicaragua, particularly the departments in the Central and Pacific region. As a result, the Northern cities of Estelí, Jinotega and Matagalpa have significant communities of fourth generation Germans. They established many agricultural businesses such as coffee and sugar cane plantations(SONY Vaio VGN-NS11Z/S Battery), newspapers, hotels and banks.

Also present is a small Middle Eastern-Nicaraguan community of Syrians, Armenians, Palestinian Nicaraguans, Jewish Nicaraguans, and Lebanese people in Nicaragua with a total population of about 30,000. There is also an East Asian community mostly consisting of Chinese, Taiwanese, and Japanese. The Chinese Nicaraguan population is estimated at around 12,000. (SONY Vaio VGN-NS11S/S Battery) The Chinese arrived in the late 19th century but were unsubstantiated until the 1920s.

Main article: Nicaraguan Diaspora

The Civil War forced many Nicaraguans to start lives outside of their country. Although many Nicaraguans returned after the end of the war, many people emigrated during the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century due to the lack of employment opportunities and poverty. The majority of the Nicaraguan Diaspora migrated to Costa Rica and the United States, and today one in six Nicaraguans live in these two countries. (SONY Vaio VGN-NS11M/S Battery)

The diaspora has also seen Nicaraguans settling around in smaller communities in other parts of the world, particularly Western Europe. Small communities of Nicarguans are found in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Communities also exist in Australia and New Zealand. Canada, Brazil and Argentina in the Americas also host small groups of these communities. In Asia, Japan also hosts a small Nicaraguan community(SONY Vaio VGN-NS11L/S Battery).

Due to extreme poverty in Nicaragua, many Nicaraguans are now living and working in neighboring El Salvador a country that has the US dollar as currency.

Maternal and child health care

U.S. medic checks an infant for an ear infection, August 2008

In June 2011, the United Nations Population Fund released a report on The State of the World's Midwifery. It contained new data on the midwifery workforce and policies relating to newborn and maternal mortality for 58 countries. The 2010 maternal mortality rate per 100,000 births for Nicaragua is 100. This is compared with 102.6 in 2008 and 100.8 in 1990(SONY Vaio VGN-NS11J/S Battery). The under 5 mortality rate, per 1,000 births is 27 and the neonatal mortality as a percentage of under 5's mortality is 46. The aim of this report is to highlight ways in which the Millennium Development Goals can be achieved, particularly Goal 4 – Reduce child mortality and Goal 5 – improve maternal death. In Nicaragua the number of midwives per 1,000 live births is 7 and 1 in 300 shows us the lifetime risk of death for pregnant women. (SONY Vaio VGN-NS11E/S Battery)

Main article: Culture of Nicaragua

Nicaraguan women wearing the Mestizaje costume, which is a traditional costume worn to dance the Mestizaje dance. The costume demonstrates the Spanish influence on Nicaraguan clothing.

Nicaraguan culture has strong folklore, music and religious traditions, deeply influenced by European culture but enriched with Amerindian sounds and flavors(SONY Vaio VGN-NS115N/S Battery). Nicaraguan culture can further be defined in several distinct strands. The Pacific coast has strong folklore, music and religious traditions, deeply influenced by Europeans. It was colonized by Spain and has a similar culture to other Spanish-speaking Latin American countries. The indigenous groups that historically inhabited the Pacific coast have largely been assimilated into the mestizo culture(SONY Vaio VGN-NS10L/S Battery).

The Caribbean coast of the country, on the other hand, was once a British protectorate. English is still predominant in this region and spoken domestically along with Spanish and indigenous languages. Its culture is similar to that of Caribbean nations that were or are British possessions, such as Jamaica, Belize, the Cayman Islands, etc. Unlike on the west coast, the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean coast have maintained distinct identities, and some still speak their native languages as first languages(SONY Vaio VGN-NS10J/S Battery).

Main article: Music of Nicaragua

Nicaraguan music is a mixture of indigenous and European, especially Spanish, influences. Musical instruments include the marimba and others common across Central America. The marimba of Nicaragua is uniquely played by a sitting performer holding the instrument on his knees. He is usually accompanied by a bass fiddle, guitar and guitarrilla (a small guitar like a mandolin). This music is played at social functions as a sort of background music(SONY Vaio VGN-NS10E/S Battery). The marimba is made with hardwood plates placed over bamboo or metal tubes of varying lengths. It is played with two or four hammers. The Caribbean coast of Nicaragua is known for a lively, sensual form of dance music called Palo de Mayo which is popular throughout the country. It is especially loud and celebrated during the Palo de Mayo festival in May. The Garifuna community (Afro-Indian) is known for its popular music called Punta(Sony VAIO VGN-SR45T/P battery).

Nicaragua enjoys a variety of international influence in the music arena. Bachata, Merengue, Salsa and Cumbia have gained prominence in cultural centers such as Managua, Leon and Granada. Cumbia dancing has grown popular with the introduction of Nicaraguan artists, including Gustavo Leyton, on Ometepe Island and in Managua. Salsa dancing has become extremely popular in Managua's nightclubs. With various influences(Sony VAIO VGN-SR45T/B battery), the form of salsa dancing varies in Nicaragua. New York style and Cuban Salsa (Salsa Casino) elements have gained popularity across the country.

Bachata dancing has also gained popularity in Nicaragua. Combinations of styles from the Dominican Republic and the United States can be found throughout the country. The nature of the dance in Nicaragua varies depending on the region. Rural areas tend to have a stronger focus on movement of the hips and turns(Sony VAIO VGN-SR45H battery). Urbanized cities, on the other hand, focus primarily on more sophisticated footwork in addition to movement and turns. A considerable amount of Bachata dancing influence comes from Nicaraguans living abroad, in cities that include Miami, Los Angeles and, to a much lesser extent, New York City. Tango has also surfaced recently in cultural cities and ballroom dance occasions(Sony VAIO VGN-SR45H/P battery).

Main article: Literature of Nicaragua

Rubén Darío, the founder of the modernismo literary movement in Latin America.

The literature of Nicaragua can be traced to pre-Columbian times; the myths and oral literature formed the cosmogonic view of the world of the indigenous people. Some of these stories are still known in Nicaragua. Like many Latin American countries, the Spanish conquerors have had the most effect on both the culture and the literature(Sony VAIO VGN-SR45H/N battery). Nicaraguan literature has historically been an important source of poetry in the Spanish-speaking world, with internationally renowned contributors such as Rubén Darío, who is regarded as the most important literary figure in Nicaragua. He is called the "Father of Modernism" for leading the modernismo literary movement at the end of the 19th century.[156] Other literary figures include Carlos Martinez Rivas, Pablo Antonio Cuadra, Alberto Cuadra Mejia(Sony VAIO VGN-SR45H/B battery), Manolo Cuadra, Pablo Alberto Cuadra Arguello, Orlando Cuadra Downing, Alfredo Alegría Rosales, Sergio Ramirez Mercado, Ernesto Cardenal, Gioconda Belli, Claribel Alegría and José Coronel Urtecho, among others.

The satirical drama El Güegüense was the first literary work of post-Columbian Nicaragua. It is regarded as one of Latin America's most distinctive colonial-era expressions and as Nicaragua's signature folkloric masterpiece(Sony VAIO VGN-SR41M/W battery), combining music, dance and theater.[156] The theatrical play was written by an anonymous author in the 16th century, making it one of the oldest indigenous theatrical/dance works of the Western Hemisphere.[157] After centuries of popular performance, the play was first published in a book in 1942.

Main articles: Languages of Nicaragua, Central American Spanish, Nicaraguan Spanish, and Voseo

A sign in Bluefields in English (top), Spanish (middle) and Miskito (bottom) (Sony VAIO VGN-SR41M/S battery)

Nicaraguan Spanish has many indigenous influences and several distinguishing characteristics. Until the 19th century, a hybrid form of Nahuat-Spanish was the common language of Nicaragua. Today Nahuat, Mangue, and Mayan words and syntax can be found in everyday speech. The Nicaraguan accent dates back to the 16th century in Andalusia(Sony VAIO VGN-SR41M/P battery), and the relative isolation of Nicaragua meant that the accent did not change in the same ways that the Andalusian accent has. For example, some Nicaraguans have a tendency to replace the "s" sound with an "h"" sound when speaking.[159] Other Nicaraguans pronounce the word vos with a strong s sound at the end. In the central part of the country, regions such as Boaco pronounce vos without the s sound at the end. The result is vo, similar to vous in French and voi in Italian(Sony VAIO VGN-SR39VN/S battery).

In this map, the use of the voseo form is illustrated, with countries such as Nicaragua, where it is predominant, represented in dark blue. Voseo is also predominant in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, where Rioplatense Spanish is spoken.

Central American Spanish is spoken by about 90% of Nicaragua's population. In Nicaragua, the voseo form of address is dominant in both speech and publications. The same is true for the Río de la Plata region of South America(Sony VAIO VGN-SR39D battery). Nicaraguan Spanish can be understood everywhere in the Hispanosphere.

Nicaraguans, unlike most Spanish-speaking groups, cannot be categorized uniformly in terms of accent and word usage. Although Spanish is spoken throughout the country, the country has great variety: vocabulary, accents and colloquial language can vary between towns and departments(Sony VAIO VGN-SR39D/Q battery).

In the Caribbean coast, many Afro-Nicaraguans and creoles speak English and creole English as their first language, but as a second language, they speak a fluent Spanish. The language in the North and South Atlantic Regions are influenced by English, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish and French roots. In addition, many of the indigenous people speak their native languages, such as the Miskito, Sumo, Rama and Garifuna language(Sony VAIO VGN-SR39D/J battery). In addition, many ethnic groups in Nicaragua have maintained ancestral languages, while also speaking Spanish or English; these include Chinese, Arabic, German, and Italian.

Spanish is taught as the principal language. English is taught to students during their high school years and tends to be the national second language. Other languages can also be found sporadically, particularly within expatriate communities(Sony VAIO VGN-SR38 battery).

Nicaragua was home to three extinct languages, one of which was never classified. Nicaraguan Sign Language is also of particular interest to linguists as the world's youngest language.[162]

While Religion in Nicaragua is growing in diversity, the majority of Nicaraguans identify themselves as observers of the Roman Catholic faith. Pictured above is the Leon Cathedral, which is among one of the nation's World Heritage Sites and an active place of religious worship in León, Nicaragua(Sony VAIO VGN-SR38/Q battery).

Religion is a significant part of the culture of Nicaragua and is referred to in the constitution. Religious freedom, which has been guaranteed since 1939, and religious tolerance are promoted by both the Nicaraguan government and the constitution.

Nicaragua has no official religion. Catholic Bishops are expected to lend their authority to important state occasions(Sony VAIO VGN-SR38/P battery), 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.

The largest denomination, and traditionally the religion of the majority, is Roman Catholic. The numbers of practicing Roman Catholics have been declining, while members of evangelical Protestant groups and Mormons have been rapidly growing in numbers since the 1990s. There are also strong Anglican and Moravian communities on the Caribbean coast(Sony VAIO VGN-SR38/B battery).

Roman Catholicism came to Nicaragua in the 16th century with the Spanish conquest and remained, until 1939, the established faith. Protestantism and other Christian denominations came to Nicaragua during the 19th century, but only gained large followings in the Caribbean Coast during the 20th century(Sony VAIO VGN-SR35T/S battery).

Popular religion revolves around the saints, who are perceived as intercessors (but not mediators) between human beings and God. Most localities, from the capital of Managua to small rural communities, honor patron saints, selected from the Roman Catholic calendar, with annual fiestas. In many communities, a rich lore has grown up around the celebrations of patron saints(Sony VAIO VGN-SR35T/P battery), such as Managua's Saint Dominic (Santo Domingo), honored in August with two colorful, often riotous, day-long processions through the city. The high point of Nicaragua's religious calendar for the masses is neither Christmas nor Easter, but La Purísima, a week of festivities in early December dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, during which elaborate altars to the Virgin Mary are constructed in homes and workplaces(Sony VAIO VGN-SR35T/B battery).

The country's close political ties have also encouraged religious ties. Buddhism has increased with a steady influx of immigration.

Main article: Cuisine of Nicaragua

The Cuisine of Nicaragua is a mixture of criollo food and dishes of pre-Columbian origin. The Spaniards found that the Creole people had incorporated local foods available in the area into their cuisine. Traditional cuisine changes from the Pacific to the Caribbean coast; while the Pacific coast's main staple revolves around local fruits and corn, the Caribbean coast cuisine makes use of seafood and the coconut(Sony VAIO VGN-SR35M/B battery).

As in many other Latin American countries, corn is a main staple. Corn is used in many of the widely consumed dishes, such as the nacatamal, and indio viejo. Corn is also an ingredient for drinks such as pinolillo and chicha as well as sweets and desserts. In addition to corn, rice and beans are eaten very often(Sony VAIO VGN-SR35G/S battery).

Gallo pinto, Nicaragua's national dish, is made with white rice and red beans that are cooked separately and then fried together. The dish has several variations including the addition of coconut oil and/or grated coconut on the Caribbean coast. Most Nicaraguans begin their day with Gallopinto. Gallopinto is most usually served with carne asada, a salad, fried cheese, platains or maduros(Sony VAIO VGN-SR35G/P battery).

Many of Nicaragua's dishes include indigenous fruits and vegetables such as jocote, mango, papaya, tamarindo, pipian, banana, avocado, yuca, and herbs such as cilantro, oregano and achiote.[165]

Nicaraguans also have been known to eat guinea pigs, tapirs, iguanas, turtle eggs, armadillos and boas but efforts are currently underway to curb this tendency(Sony VAIO VGN-SR35G/B battery).

Batter of the Fieras del San Fernando, a Nicaraguan professional baseball team

Baseball is the most popular sport played in Nicaragua. Although some professional Nicaraguan baseball teams have folded in the recent past, Nicaragua enjoys a strong tradition of American-style Baseball. Baseball was introduced to Nicaragua at different years during the 19th century. In the Caribbean coast locals from Bluefields were taught how to play baseball in 1888 by Albert Addlesberg, a retailer from the United States. (Sony VAIO VGN-SR33H battery) Baseball did not catch on in the Pacific coast until 1891 when a group of mostly students originating from universities of the United States formed "La Sociedad de Recreo" (Society of Recreation) where they played various sports, baseball being the most popular among them.[166] There are five teams that compete amongst themselves: Indios del Boer (Managua), Chinandega, Tiburones (Sharks) of Granada, León and Masaya(Sony VAIO VGN-SR33H/S battery). Players from these teams comprise the national team when Nicaragua competes internationally. The country has had its share of MLB players (including current Boston Red Sox pitcher Vicente Padilla and Boston Red Sox pitcher Devern Hansack), but the most notable is Dennis Martínez, who was the first baseball player from Nicaragua to play in Major League Baseball(Sony VAIO VGN-SR33H/P battery). He became the first Latin-born pitcher to throw a perfect game, and the 13th in major league history, when he played with the Montreal Expos against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in 1991.

Boxing is the second most popular sport in Nicaragua. The country has had world champions such as Alexis Argüello and Ricardo Mayorga among others. Recently, football has gained popularity, especially with the younger population. The Dennis Martínez National Stadium has served as a venue for both baseball and football but the first ever national football stadium in Managua is currently under construction(Sony VAIO VGN-SR33H/B battery).

Main article: Education in Nicaragua

See also: Universities in Nicaragua and List of Schools in Nicaragua

Literacy Campaign Propaganda Poster

Nicaragua's first public primary school opened in 1837. By the late 1860s public grade schools existed in most of the larger cities. In 1877, Nicaraguan authorities accepted the principle that such schools should be nationally funded, and that attendance should be free and compulsory. In 1881 education was formally removed from religious control and turned over to government(Sony VAIO VGN-SR31M/S battery), but church-run schools continued to operate alongside the public system. Subsequently shortages of facilities and teachers, especially in rural areas, hampered educational development. The Sandinista government sharply increased spending on education and reduced illiteracy significantly, but shortages of facilities and personnel remained a problem. The Sandinistas also added a leftist ideological content to the curriculum, which was removed after 1990(-vgn-sr29xn-s-battery.html">Sony VAIO VGN-SR29XN/S battery).

Higher education dates from 1818 when the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua (UNAN) was founded in León. A major reform, begun in 1980, reorganized the country's postsecondary system into two universities: the UNAN, with campuses in León and Managua, and the Central American University in Managua. It also restructured the curriculum, giving more emphasis to science and technology, and less to law and commerce(Sony VAIO VGN-SR29VN/S battery). Nicaragua also has several more specialized institutions, with a focus on education that will promote economic development.

Education is paid via taxes for all Nicaraguans. Elementary education is free and compulsory, but many children in rural areas are unable to attend due to lack of schools and other reasons. Communities on the Caribbean coast have access to education in their native languages(Sony VAIO VGN-SR26/S battery).

The majority of higher education institutions are in Managua, higher education has financial, organic and administrative autonomy, according to the law. Also, freedom of subjects is recognized.[172] Nicaragua's higher education system consists of 48 universities, and 113 colleges and technical institutes in the areas of electronics, computer systems and sciences(Sony VAIO VGN-SR26/P battery), agroforestry, construction and trade-related services.[173] The educational system includes 1 U.S. accredited English-language university, 3 Bilingual university programs, 5 Bilingual secondary schools and dozens of English Language Institutes. In 2005, almost 400,000 (7%) of Nicaraguans held a university degree.[174] 18% of Nicaragua's total budget is invested in primary, secondary and higher education. University level institutions account for 6% of 18%(Sony VAIO VGN-SR26/B battery).

As of 1979, the educational system was one of the poorest in Latin America.[175] Under the Somoza dictatorships, limited spending on education and generalized poverty, which forced many adolescents into the labor market, constricted educational opportunities for Nicaraguans. One of the first acts of the newly elected Sandinista government in 1980 was an extensive and successful literacy campaign, using secondary school students(Sony VAIO VGN-SR25T/S battery), university students and teachers as volunteer teachers: it reduced the overall illiteracy rate from 50.3% to 12.9% within only five months.[176] This was one of a number of large scale programs which received international recognition for their gains in literacy, health care, education, childcare, unions, and land reform.[177][178] In September 1980, UNESCO awarded Nicaragua the Nadezhda Krupskaya award for the literacy campaign(Sony VAIO VGN-SR25T/P battery). This was followed by the literacy campaigns of 1982, 1986, 1987, 1995 and 2000, all of which were also awarded by UNESCO.[179] Today, the literacy rate in Nicaragua is still below 70%.

Communications and media

For most Nicaraguans radio and TV are the main sources of news. There are more than 100 radio stations, many of them in the capital, and several TV networks. Cable TV is available in most urban areas(Sony VAIO VGN-SR25S/B battery).

The print media are varied and partisan, representing pro and anti-government positions.

La Prensa; El Nuevo Diario; Confidencial Varies; Hoy; Mercurio

Televicentro Canal 2; Multinoticias Canal 4; Telenica Canal 8; Canal 9; Canal 10; TVRED canal 11; Nicavision Canal 12; Viva Nicaragua Canal 13; VosTV Canal 14; 100% Noticias canal 15; CDNN Canal 23; Extraplus Canal 37

Radio Corporacion; Radio Mundial; Radio Nicaragua (state-owned); Radio Sandino; Radio Pirata; Radio Maranata: (Sony VAIO VGN-SR25M/B battery); Estacion X; Radio joya; Radio Romantica; Radio Pachanguera; Radio Buenisima; Radio Disney: Radio Oldis

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