The Country and its People

Nicaragua is in Central America where North and South America meet to form a narrow point separating the Caribbean and the Atlantic from the Pacific. In the north Honduras and El Salvador and in south Costa Rica border on this country, which is the most thinly populated one in the region. Nicaragua has approximately one third of the surface area of the Federal Republic of Germany, but only 5.5 million inhabitants – about as much as Schleswig Holstein and Hamburg together. 43% of the population live in the country, 57% in the big cities.

The majority of the population are of mixed blood from Spanish and Indio ancestors. There are also about 15% white people, 10% black people and 5% Indios, the indigenous people. The national language is Spanish.

A mountain range with active volcanoes runs parallel to the Pacific coast. The country can be divided in three climatic zones:

  • The Pacific coastal plain with large cities such as León, Managua and Granada. About three quarters of all inhabitants live there. The region has two distinct seasons: The dry summer from November to April, with temperatures around 35 oC and the winter’s rainy season whose average temperatures are around 28 oC. This is where we find a concentration of industry and large plantations for the export of bananas, sugar cane, tobacco, peanuts and cotton (up until 1990). The fertile soil allows the cultivation of the population’s staple food sources: Corn, rice, millet and red and black beans.
  • Beyond the range of volcanoes lies grass land with pastures for raising cattle, a region which transitions gradually into mountainous land with tropical rain forest and coffee plantations in the more elevated areas (both are export products). The inhabitants grow staple food sources for their personal use on small plots. The climate is cooler than the Pacific coast and the precipitation higher. Mountain forests and mountain areas near large rivers are often shrouded by morning fog which burns up as the morning continues. There are few black-top roads. Transportation on land is laborious and slow – 20 km/h are the norm. During the rainy season many roads are impassable.
  • The humid Caribbean coastal plain (Atlantic zone) consists of tropical rain forest, comprises about half the country’s total area and is uninhabited for the most part and undeveloped. Many coastal towns can be reached only by plane and boat. The dry season lasts only three months; there is more precipitation than in other parts of the country. The Indian tribes living here (Miskito and Rama) have their own languages whose long-term survival seemed endangered up until a few years ago as Spanish was the only language taught in schools. Today there is a comprehensive bi-lingual language program up to sixth grade, financed by the EU.

© 2011 An article by Gerd Schuman