Español

A Short History of Nicaragua

You are here: Countries / Nicaragua



Nicaraguan history can be traced back as far as 6000 years old as the oldest human footprints found preserved by volcanic mud. As this historical evidence was found, historians conclude that indigenous people have indeed settled in the area with traces of both Mesoamerican and South American native cultures.

The arrival of the Spaniards was a momentous event in the history of Nicaragua. For one, half of the population of the natives died from the new diseases brought by the Spaniards, which was estimated at about a million deaths. Inter-breeding of early Spanish settlers with natives accounts for Mestizo dominance of the current stock inhabiting the country. Christopher Columbus was the first ever European recorded to have set foot and explored the Mosquito Coast but it was Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba who founded Granada and Leon, the first two major settlements in Nicaragua in 1524.

Five years after the founding of Granada and Leon, the territory was soon being claimed by different conquistadores and the series of ensuing battles between conquistadores were dubbed as “The War of the Captains.” The eventual victor was Pedrarias Davila who later on was declared as the first governor of the fledgling colony.

In 1831, Nicaragua became an independent republic and then in 1860 acquired the Mosquito Coast from the British in 1860 to become what is now the known Nicaraguan state.

The 1900s, being independent already, was characterized by armed conflicts between liberals and conservatives with American interventions here and there. Guerilla warfare was wage by General Augusto Cesar Sandino from 1927 and 1933. Compromises reached between all parties involved ended up with Sandino, Juan Bautista Sacasa and Anastasio Somoza being co-rulers. Sandino was assassinated by order of Somoza while Sacasa was forced out. Somoza seized total control of the country, and for 40 years the Somoza family made a fiefdom out of Nicaragua. During the reign of the Somozas, at around 1961, the Sandinistas regrouped and continued the fight in the mountains. When Pedro Joaquin Chamorro, a famous critic of the Somozas, was assassinated in 1978, the Sandinista movement gained all support from the people and even the Church. The following year, the Somozas fled the country and the revolutionary government was established with Daniel Ortega, a Sandinista, leading the coalition.

In 1981, US intervention have been felt once again when the Sandinistas allied themselves with Marxist Cuba by financing and training armed rebels anew called the Contras. The Sandinistas ruled until 1990 as they called for a democratic election thinking they have the support of the people. However, Violeta Chamorro, widow of Pedro Chamorro, surprisingly won. Chamorro’s government pushed for peace and was successful in ending hostilities between Contras and Sandinistas.

Right now, Daniel Ortega, a known Sandinista sits as president of Nicaragua after suffering defeats from Arnoldo Aleman and Enrique Bolaños and is now taking Nicaragua to new heights as GDP is rising on an unprecedented scale.

Share this page: