COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Nicaragua’s fragile democracy remains under stress. Nicaragua’s November 2008 municipal elections were highly controversial, with widespread, credible charges of irregularities. Donor countries, political opposition groups, and civil society are increasingly concerned about the shrinkage of democratic space within Nicaragua. The economy remains among the poorest in the hemisphere. Crime has increased significantly over the last year. 
The national language is Spanish, although many residents of the Caribbean coastal areas also speak English and indigenous languages. The climate is hot and humid, with the “summer” dry season running mid-November through mid-May and the “winter” rainy season running from mid-May through mid-November. Terrain ranges from hilly and volcanic to coastal beaches and tropical jungles. Geological faults run throughout the country, along which active volcanoes are situated. Earthquakes are common, but the last major earthquake, which destroyed the city of Managua, occurred in 1972. 

Culture – Nicaragua
The culture of Nicaragua is somewhat varied in different regions due to the different influences that were exerted on these different parts of the country. For the most part, the majority of the people show a strong Spanish influence. However there are other parts of the country that are more influenced by the English culture. 
Initially, the western half of the country was colonized by Spain. This means that the people living here were greatly influenced by the Spanish culture and as a result have a similar culture to other Spanish-speaking Latin American countries. Spanish is their first language and they practice Catholicism. But the culture is not without native influences and the current culture, which is practiced amongst the present day mestizos, is a mixture of both Spanish and native Indian culture. 
On the other hand the eastern half of the country was once a British protectorate and thus the influence exerted here on the native peoples was strongly English. Most people from these regions still speak English as a first language and the Protestant religion is favored over Catholicism. However, more people in the country practice the Catholic faith than the Protestant one. The culture on the Atlantic side of the country is closer to that found in the Caribbean side and there are a large number of people who bear African descent as well as a small Garinagu population. 
In the eastern half of the country you will find a small group that has remained ethnically distinct from the rest of the country. They have managed to maintain many of their tribal customs and languages and prove to be quite intriguing to visitors who are interested in finding out more about other cultures. Among these are the Sumos and Ramas people. 
The mixture of Catholicism and native customs has resulted in a strong culture of fiestas based on the honoring of certain saints. Every city in Nicaragua has its own patron saint. Some towns even share their saints with other towns. Besides giving these saints gifts in exchange for blessings, such as finding a mate or ensuring a healthy crop, the people of Nicaragua engage in annual festivities in their honor. The fiestas are a time of joy and fun and usually begin with a parade wherein a statue of the saint is displayed. Traditional dances, plays and ceremonies can also be part of these festivities. Rockets and firecrackers are exploded and drinking and feasting add to the merriment. The public is kept entertained by musicians and clowns and the festivities only die down in the early hours of daylight the following morning. 

Nicaragua, which derives its name from the chief of the area's leading Indian tribe at the time of the Spanish Conquest, was first settled by the Spanish in 1522. The country won independence in 1838.

(Nicaragua – America Central- Nicaragua)

If there is one meal that everyone in Nicaragua and Costa Rica eats, it's gallo pinto. This hearty, healthy and filling dish is your basic rice and beans. The beans in this case are red, and the color of the beans on the rice gives gallo pinto, or "painted rooster," its name. Costa Ricans especially are fond of serving gallo pinto with scrambled eggs for breakfast. This is the single most common dish in all of Nicaragua and the mainstay of the people during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It sounds very simple to make, but international visitors generally have a hard time reproducing it. Look for a recipe in the Foods section of the Foreign Language listings.


Total population: 5,532,000
Gross national income per capita (PPP international $): 2,720
Life expectancy at birth m/f (years): 68/74
Healthy life expectancy at birth m/f (years, 2003): 60/63
Probability of dying under five (per 1 000 live births): 36
Probability of dying between 15 and 60 years m/f (per 1 000 population): 224/138
Total expenditure on health per capita (Intl $, 2006): 251
Total expenditure on health as % of GDP (2006): 7.8