My job today at Global Brigades was to provide a general country overview of Nicaragua to give to students who will be participating with programs within the country. Thinking back to what I wanted to know the weeks before I left home, I did some research and put together everything I could to help others understand the Nicaraguan culture!!! Oh exciting, now you can get an even better idea of what I see here day to day...
Helpful language hints and terms
    • The second and third “S” in the Nicaragua Spanish is commonly dropped from words. For example the word
    • “Tu” is normally replaced with “Vos”. Nicaragua is known as being a “Voseante” region in the world... They respect everyone! Ex: “Como estas?” “Bien, y vos?”
    • Nicaraguans tend to speak very fluently and drop the ends of words which sometimes tends to make it sound like a mumble. It can be difficult to pick up at first but it just takes a good ear and a bit of practice.
    • When visiting the Eastern, Caribbean side of Nicaragua, it isn't uncommon to hear a lot of English spoken. English settlement occurred in the 16oo's when colonization began forming in the region. Inhabitants of the eastern shore have a very thick accent with Creole, Spanish, Miskitu, English dialect. 
Manners and greetings
  • Men greeting men: Handshakes are normal
  • Women greeting women: informal “hola” or “mucho gusto.” Handshakes are more formal and cheek kisses and light hugs are common between friends and family.

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Countryside
    • Ancestral traditions have remained unaltered because of limited contact with the modern rush of the rest of the world.
    • People here are very welcoming and lead a life connected strongly with agriculture. Common farming crops within Nicaragua are coffee (around the highland areas of Jinogeta and Maltagalpa), sugarcane, rice, corn and beans.
    • It isn't uncommon to find roaming cattle, horses, dogs and chickens on the rolling dirt roads.


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Religion

  • The predominant religion is Roman Catholicism which claims about 73% of the population. About 15% of the population consists of members of the Evangelical Church.
  • The major religious holidays are: 
  • Holy Week (Semana Santa)- which takes place the week of Easter, celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus. This is a giant celebration by the entire country and usually consists of lots of traditional food, presentations, processions and parties.
  • Holy Thursday
  • Good Friday
  • Christmas (December 8th)
  • The immaculate conception (December 12th)


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Past and Present

  • Nicaragua's political history is very important to the people who live here. You will find murals, paintings, billboards, posters and flags that represent different aspects of their political past and present. Current political events have caused corruption and confusion for the inhabitants. 



  • Nicaragua is currently the second poorest country in the Americas behind Haiti. Hurricanes, earthquakes, revolutions and corrupt government control have become barriers for the success of this country. Hurricanes on the eastern coast are very prevalent and cause heavy flooding throughout the country. In 1972, 5,000 were killed and another 250,000 were left homeless after a 6.2 earthquake (with two 5.2 after-shocks) occurred 5km below the capital of Managua. 

  • Street names and numbers are hard to come by in Nicaragua. Most house or business addresses are given according to the closest church or monument. For example, a translated version might be: from the Calvario Church, 1 block south, half a block East. After the 1972 earthquake, which crumbled the city to the ground, many of the monuments that people referenced addresses to were destroyed and no longer exist. For some time after the earthquake, they continued to use the monument names as a reference even though they didn't even exist. Today, the complicated address system works by referencing anything from “the little tree”, “the restaurant on the corner”, or even “the yellow car in front of my house.” The Nicaraguan Postal Agency attempted to create a better, more normal system but scrapped the idea when they realized it has been working perfectly fine for years. 

  • The population of Nicaragua have strong opinions towards the current president, Daniel Ortega, who is part of the Sandinista party and was the first president after the revolution against the Samozas in 1979 until 1990. He ran for presidency every election between 1990 until he won again in 2006 with 38% of the vote. He won again in 2011 with allegations that he illegally rigged the polls. A past president, Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, added to the constitution in 1990 that a president may not be able to rule for more than two terms to avoid anarchy but Daniel Ortega abolished the law when he made provisions and printed a new constitution in 2010, a year before the next election. People here question his intentions and what the future holds for the future of Nicaragua.

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Key Locations
  • The country is divided into three zones: Pacific lowlands, cooler central highlands and the Caribbean lowlands.
  • The majority of the country lives on the Western, Pacific side of the country consisting of Granada, Leon, Esteli, San Juan del Sur, Managua, Maltagalpa, Chinandega and Jinotega. 
    • Due to the rough terrain The Eastern, Caribbean side is inhabited by very few comparatively to the rest of the country. The caribbean coastline is very irregular with many lagoons and deltas which makes development very hard.


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Traditional Food

  • Gallo Pinto: Rice and beans
  • Nacatamal: A corn and butter dough containing pork or chicken with potatoes, tomatoes, sweet peppers, rice and onions. It is then wrapped and tied up in banana leaves and boiled for five hours.
  • Vaho (Baho): A mix of meat, green plantains and yuca cooked in banana leaves. 
  • Indio Viejo: Meat shredded and fried with with onion, garlic, sweet pepper and tomato. Ground up tortilla with water is also added with broth. 
  • Quesillo: Comes from La Paz Centro and Nagarote, in the department of Leon, this creative dish is a piece of cheese (named quesillo) that is placed inside of a tortilla and wrapped in a plastic bag. Onions, vinager, cream and salt are all placed inside of the bag with the cheese and tortilla. Nicaraguans eat this dish by biting off the corner of the plastic bag and pushing the tortilla up and out. 
  • Tres Leches: A dessert prepared with milk, condensed milk and cream. A cake base is baked f rom flour and egg and soaks in the milk milk mixture.
  • Rosquillas: A specialty of Somoto, this cracker is made by combining corn dough with cheese, egg, butter and lard. They are circular and baked until they are hard like toast. Nicaraguans most commonly eat them as a snack with coffee.
  • Chicha- de Maiz: A cider-like corn drink. Corn is left to sit and soften over night, ground up the next day, placed back into water, cooked and cooled. Dulce candy and red colorant is added with more water until it is ready to drink.


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Transportation
    • The most common mode of transportation for Nicaraguans traveling between cities is by chicken bus. They are very common within all countries within Central America. They get their name because it isn't uncommon for travelers to be transporting livestock. These busses are usually vibrantly painted school busses. You cannot always guarantee that they will arrive at a location on time because drivers tend to drive very slow in attempt to pick up as many passengers from the side of the road as possible. Many times there is a driver and two “helpers” who are responsible for yelling out to possible passengers, help throw bags or luggage on top of the bus and collect money. These busses are commonly crammed with passengers. A common price for a ride between cities is about 20-30 cordobas which usually amounts to about a dollar or two. Tourists and travelers take these busses as an alternative to taxis who might charge $20 for the same ride but help you arrive at your destination in half the time.


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Interesting Facts

-Baseball is the most popular sport
-Nicaragua is the largest Central American country
-It is larger that Ireland and Portugal put together
-The regional currency of Nicaragua is the Cordoba
-86 of the 88 constellations can be seen from Nicaragua
-Nicaragua is the southernmost point of North America pine lands
-Lake Nicaragua is home of the only freshwater sharks in the world
-Swordfish in excess of sixteen feet have been caught in Lake Nicaragua
-Nicaragua has the lowest crime rate in Central America


 


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    Kelsey

    Novice spanish translator, adventurer, student, passionate life lover

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