Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America and is slightly bigger in area than New York State. The country is bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. The Pacific Ocean provides the border to the west, and the eastern border of the country is on the Caribbean Sea.
Nicaragua has suffered disasters due to hurricanes, earthquakes, and volcanic activity. Nicaraguans can use the steam from the depths of the volcanoes as geothermal energy.
Most people live in the western Pacific lowland region between the Pacific coast and Lake Managua. Along the eastern coast, the area called the Mosquito Coast receives the most annual rainfall in Central America: 100 to 250 inches (2,540 to 6,350 millimeters).
Map created by National Geographic Maps
PEOPLE & CULTURE
The local people call themselves Nicas, but most outsiders refer the people as Nicaraguans.
Most people are mestizos, or natives and Spanish combined. The British brought black slaves to Nicaragua to work on plantations in the 17th century. Many Nicaraguans are descendants of the slaves.
Lake Managua is the only freshwater lake where sharks live. Bull sharks enter the lake by traveling up the Rio San Juan river from the Atlantic Ocean. The sharks can adapt to fresh water, but they are now rarely found in the lake.
Many exotic animals are found in Nicaragua, such as toucans, boa constrictors, monkeys, wild boars, jaguars, and sloths. Manatees and sea turtles swim in the Cayos Miskitos Biological Reserve in coral reefs off the remote islands of the Caribbean coast.
There are over 70 protected areas in the country, which help preserve the habitats of many endangered species. The Bosawas Biosphere Reserves has a cloud forest that protects 12 kinds of poisonous snakes.
The biggest threats to the environment in Nicaragua are deforestation, soil erosion, and water pollution.
GOVERNMENT & ECONOMY
Daniel Ortega was elected in 2006 as the president of Nicaragua. The president and vice president are elected on the same ticket by popular vote for a five-year term.
Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America, and has widespread underemployment and poverty.
Their main crops are coffee, bananas, sugarcane, cotton, rice, corn, and sesame.
The earliest settlers were probably related to the Maya and Aztec people of Mexico. One of the largest groups of early people was the Nicarao.
Spain ruled Nicaragua and many countries in Central and South America during the 16th century until the early 19th century.
Nicaragua gained its independence from Spain in 1821 and became part of the Mexican empire for several years. Then it joined a group of nearby countries with a central government in Guatemala City called Provinces of Central America. Nicaragua split from the group in 1838 and became fully independent.
For the past several decades, Nicaraguans have endured unrest, dictatorship, and two civil wars.