Nicaragua a republic of Central America, bounded on the N. by the republic of Honduras, on the W. by the Pacific Ocean, on the S. by the republic of Costa Rica, and on the E. by the Caribbean Sea, is situated in lat. 10° 45'- 15° N., long. 83° 20'-870 31', and has an area of about 58,000 square miles.
General Features. — Nicaragua is traversed by two ranges of mountains — the western, which follows the direction of the coast-line, at a distance of from ten to twenty miles from the Pacific; and the eastern (a part of the great, range of the Cordilleras), which runs nearly parallel to it, and sends off several spurs towards the Caribbean Sea. The former is generally high and volcanic, but sinks at times almost to the level of the plains. Between the two ranges lies a great interior basin, containing the lakes of Nicaragua and Managua. The principal rivers are the Rio Coco, or Segovia, forming part of the boundary between Honduras and Nicaragua, the Escondido, or Blewfields, and the San Juan, all of which flow into the Caribbean Sea. The eastern coast of Nicaragua is called the Mosquito Coast; it formerly constituted an independent territory known as the Mosquito kingdom, and enjoyed the protectorate of Great Britain. It became a part of Nicaragua in 1860. Nicaragua is in many places densely wooded, the most valuable trees being mahogany, logwood, Nicaragua-wood, cedar, and Brazil-wood. The.pastures are splendid, and support vast herds of cattle. The chief products are sugar-cane (softer and juicier than the Asiatic variety), cocoa, cotton, indigo, tobacco, maize, and rice, with nearly all the fruits and edibles of the tropics — plantains, bananas, tomatoes, bread-fruit, arrowroot, citrons, oranges, limes, lemons, pineapples, guavas, etc. The chief vegetable exports are sarsaparilla, aloes, ipecacuanha, ginger, copal, gum-arabic, caoutchouc, etc. The northern part of Nicaragua is rich in minerals — gold, silver, copper, iron, and lead but the mines are not so carefully worked now as they were under the Spaniards.
Population. — Of the 275,815 inhabitants of Nicaragua, 220,000 belong to the uncivilized, and 30,000 (being whites) to the civilized races. The former may be divided proportionately as follows: Indians of unmixed blood, 550 in 1000; mestizos (ladinos, from whites and Indians; zambos, from negroes and Indians; and mulattoes, from whites and blacks), 400; whites, 45; negroes, 6. The ladino element predominates in Jalapa, Ocotal, Matagalpa, Corinto, Leon, Libertad, Managua, Blewfields, Acoyapa, Rivas, and San Juan del Sur; the mulatto in Granada Nandaime, San Carlos, and San Juan del Norte. Masaya is almost entirely Indian, and Indians occupy a large part of the basin of the two lakes. The coast basins of the Pacific are peopled by Indians of Aztec descent. The uncivilized Indian tribes occupy the river basins of the Atlantic slope; the Pantasmas, Poyas, and Carcas in the several upper basins of the Coco, Rio Grande, and Mico, the lower basins of which are peopled by Mosquitos, Zambos, and black Caribs; and the Wawas, Toonglas, and Ramas in the upper basins of the rivers of the same names. Most of the Nicaraguans live in towns, many going daily long distances to their plantations, which are often reached by paths so obscure as to escape the notice of the traveler. The chief occupation is the raising. of cattle, and large quantities of cheese are made on some of the estates. The Indians, who are generally a sober race, are the principal producers. The half-breeds, as a class, are indolent, thriftless, and ignorant. Baptism is considered indispensable, but the marriage ceremony is often omitted, Petty thefts are common, but robberies and murders are unusual. Every few years a revolution breaks out, the population divides into two parties, and all business is suspended until the insurgents are put down or a change of rulers effected. Indeed, the incessant political distractions of the country have notoriously all but destroyed its material prosperity.
Religious and Educational Status. — Education is in a low condition. In 1868 radical changes were effected in public instruction, but the reform was only on paper. There are two universities, so called, one at Leon, with faculties of law, medicine, and theology, and in 1872 with 56 students, and an intermediate course with 102 students; and one at Granada, which has a faculty of law and an intermediate course, with 162 students. At that time there were in the republic 92 male primary schools, with 3871 pupils, and 9 female primary schools, with 532 pupils. Education is wholly secular, the supreme direction being in the hands of the executive. Instruction is gratuitous, and teachers are paid from the public funds. There is no public library in the country, no museum, and no newspaper. According to the constitution of the state the religion is Roman Catholic, and the republic is, ecclesiastically, a suffragan bishopric subordinate to the archbishop of Guatemala. There are 117 parishes, of which about 100 have incumbents. There are no religious orders, all convents having been suppressed in 1829. Freedom of worship is nominally granted, but is not really practiced to any extent. The Moravians have a mission school at Blewfields, and several schools at other places on the Mosquito Coast; in all 8 schools, with about 500 pupils of both sexes. The Moravians also have a church, and it is the only Protestant church in Nicaragua.
History. — Nicaragua was discovered in 1521 by Gil Gonzales de Avila, and conquered by Pedro Arias de Avila, the governor of Panama, in 1522. In 1821 — the great year of revolution in Central America — it threw off allegiance to Spain, and, after a desperate and bloody struggle, secured its independence by the help of the "Liberals" of San Salvador. Nicaragua now formed the second state in the federal republic of Central America, but on the dissolution of the union in 1839 it became an independent republic. In 1847-8 a dispute arose between Nicaragua and Great Britain about the Mosquito Coast, which led to some hostilities, and was only settled in 1860. Meanwhile, in 1855, a civil war had broken out between the so- called "Conservatives" and "Liberals," which resulted in the victory of the latter, who were, however, obliged to call in the help of the since notorious colonel William Walker, of California, who, at first successful, was finally overthrown by a coalition of the other Central American states. After Walker's expulsion the government was re-established, and in 1858 a new constitution was adopted. By this constitution the republic of Nicaragua is governed by a president, who is elected by universal suffrage, and holds office for four years. There are two legislative chambers — the Senate and the House of Representatives. Liberty of speech and of the press exists, but is not absolutely guaranteed. Nicaragua took an active .part in the struggle between Guatemala and San Salvador, which resulted in the shooting of president Barrios and the death of Carrera in 1865. Since then the country has been comparatively quiet. P. Chamorra was elected president in 1875.
See Billow, Der Freistaat Nicaragua (Berlin, 1849); Squier, Travels in Nicaragua (N. Y. 1850); id. Nicaragua, its People, etc. (Lond. 1852, 2 vols. 8vo); id. in Harper's Monthly, vol. 11; Edinburgh Rev., 95. 287 sq.