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Title: Nicaraguans  
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Subject: Spanish language in the United States, Immigration to Costa Rica, Latin Americans, Latin America, English settlement in Nicaragua
Collection: Central American People, Nicaraguan People
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Total population
7,000,000 (est)
Regions with significant populations
 Nicaragua      5.8 million
 Costa Rica 226,000-800,000
 United States 238,000-700,000
 Spain 6,096-10,000
Spanish, English, others
Christianity, others
Related ethnic groups
Nicaraguan American,
Chinese Nicaraguan, Afro-Nicaraguan, Jewish Nicaraguan, Palestinian Nicaraguan

Nicaraguans (Spanish: Nicaragüense; also Nicaragüense, Nica, Nicoya and Pinolero) are people inhabiting in, originating or having significant heritage from Nicaragua. Most Nicaraguans live in Nicaragua, although there is also a significant Nicaraguan diaspora, particularly in Costa Rica and the United States with smaller communities in other countries around the world. There are also people living in Nicaragua who are not Nicaraguans because they were not born or raised in Nicaragua nor have they gained citizenship.


  • Demographics 1
    • Population 1.1
    • Ethnic groups 1.2
    • Immigration 1.3
  • Nicaraguans abroad 2
    • Nicaraguans in Costa Rica 2.1
    • Nicaraguans in the U.S. 2.2
  • History 3
  • Culture and traditions 4
    • Language 4.1
    • Symbols 4.2
  • See also 5
  • References 6



Nicaraguan boys

The most populous city in Nicaragua is the capital city, Managua, with a population of 1.8 million (2005). As of 2009, over 6.9 million inhabitants live in the Pacific, Central and North regions, 5.1 in the Pacific region alone, while inhabitants in the Caribbean region only reached an estimated 300,000.[1]

According to the UN, Nicaragua has a population of 7,243,000 (July 1, 2015) with a population growth rate of 1.31% (during the period 2005-210) and a birth rate of 24.9/1,000 population (2005–2010), third highest in the region. The life expectancy for Nicaraguans at birth is (2005–2015) 74.45 years; 70.9 for males and 78.0 for females.

Ethnic groups
Group Number
Mestizo (70%) 4,158,328
White (17%) 670,557
Amerindian (5%) 283,888
Black (8%) 567,777
Source: CIA World Factbook (2007)

Ethnic groups

The majority of the Nicaraguan population is Mestizo and White. Exactly 68% are Mestizos (mixed Amerindian and White) and 17% are White with the majority being of Spanish, Italian, German, or French ancestry. Mestizos and Whites mainly reside in the western region of the country and combined make up 85% of the Nicaraguan population, approximately 6.2 million people.

About 5% are Amerindians, descendants of the country's indigenous inhabitants. Nicaragua's pre-Columbian population consisted of many indigenous groups. In the western region the Nicarao people, whom the country is named after, were present along with other groups related by culture and language to the Mayans. The Caribbean coast of Nicaragua was inhabited by indigenous peoples who were mostly chibcha related groups that had migrated from South America, primarily present day Colombia and Venezuela. These groups include the Miskitos, Ramas and Sumos. In the 19th century, there was a substantial indigenous minority, but this group was also largely assimilated culturally into the mestizo majority. In the mid-1980s, the government divided the department of Zelaya into two autonomous regions and granted the black and indigenous people of this region limited self-rule.

The remainder 10% of Nicaragua's population is black, and mainly reside on the country's sparsely populated Caribbean or Atlantic coast. The black population is mostly of West Indian (Antillean) origin, the descendants of indentured laborers brought mostly from Jamaica when the region was a British protectorate. There is also a smaller number of Garifuna, a people of mixed Carib, Angolan, Congolese and Arawak descent.


Nicaraguan women at a concert in Managua.

Relative to its overall population, Nicaragua has never experienced any large scale wave of immigrants. The total number of immigrants to Nicaragua, both originating from other Latin American countries and all other countries, never surpassed 1% of its total population prior to 1995. The 2005 census showed the foreign-born population at 1.2%, having risen a mere .06% in 10 years.[1] This is not to say that immigrants were not important to the evolution of Nicaraguan society and the Nicaraguan nation.

The founding members of the Deutsche Club in Nicaragua

In the 19th century Nicaragua experienced a wave of immigration, primarily from Europe. In particular, families from Spain, Germany, Italy, France and Belgium generally moved to Nicaragua to start a new life. They received free land, monetary incentives, and other perks in exchange for populating unsettled territories and working in the new growing coffee industry. In time immigrants were able to set up newspapers, hotels and banks.

There is also a small Middle Eastern-Nicaraguan community of Syrian, Armenian, Palestinian Nicaraguan, Jewish Nicaraguan, and Lebanese people in Nicaragua with a total population of about 30,000. There is also an East Asian community of Japanese, Taiwanese and Chinese. The Chinese Nicaraguan population is estimated at around 12,000.[2] The Chinese arrived in the late 19th century but were unsubstantiated until the second census (in 1920) revealed 400 people of the Chinese nationality.

Many Nicaraguans also immigrated to the states, and of many lies Miami, Florida.

Nicaraguans abroad

Nicaragua, as well as other Latin American countries, have a long history of migration to the United States. However, Nicaragua is the only countries in its region to have Costa Rica as the primary destination. Estimates on the basis of the Nicaraguan Health Survey indicated that at least 11% of Nicaraguan households have at least 1 person residing abroad.[3]

Smaller numbers of Nicaraguans live in many other countries around the world such as other countries in Latin America, Europe, Canada, China and Taiwan among others.

Nicaraguans in Costa Rica

Nicaraguan migration to Costa Rica has occurred since the mid-19th century. Unlike other Latin American countries, Nicaraguan migrants primary destination is not the United States, it is Costa Rica. An estimated 10% (400,000 - 600,000) of the Costa Rican population is made up of Nicaraguans,[4] some of them migrate for seasonal work opportunities and then return to their country. Costa Rica and Nicaragua signed an agreement regulating seasonal migration in 1998; it allows Nicaraguans with work permits to enter Costa Rica at the western border at Peñas Blancas on the Pan-American Highway. In the northern part of Costa Rica there are 200,000 Nicaraguans and the Catholic Church in this area has an active program to protect the rights of migrant workers.[5]

Nicaraguans in the U.S.

A mural in Little Managua featuring Nicaraguan poet, Rubén Darío, Venezuelan Simón Bolívar among others.
J Smooth and Miss Nicaragua 2007, Xiomara Blandino celebrating La Feria Agostina, or the Nicaraguan Festival, in Los Angeles with up to 8,000 Nicaraguan Americans.

Abroad, the United States is home to the second largest number of Nicaraguans outside Nicaragua, particularly in the Miami area. The estimated number of Nicaraguan Americans in the U.S. was 281,167 in 2006, up from 177,684 in 2000.[6]

The earliest documents of immigration from Nicaragua to the United States was combined in total with those of other Central American countries. However, according to the U.S. Census Bureau some 7,500 Nicaraguans legally immigrated from 1967 to 1976. An estimated 28,620 Nicaraguans were living in the U.S. in 1970, 90% of which self-reported as white on the 1970 census. Most Nicaraguan immigrants during the late 1960s were women: there were only 60 male Nicaraguan immigrants for every 100 female immigrants during this period.[7] In 1998 more than two million Nicaraguans were left homeless due to hurricane Mitch, as a result many Nicaraguans received permanent residence or temporary protected status (TPS) in the late 1990s.[8]

According to the 1990 U.S. Census 168,659 of the total 202,658 documented Nicaraguans in the U.S. were born in Nicaragua.[9] In 1992 approximately 10–12% of the Nicaraguan population had emigrated. These emigrants tended to be disproportionately of working age, better educated, and more often white-collar workers than nonmigrants. In addition, emigrants were more likely to come from larger premigration households and higher income households.[10]

Areas of greatest concentration in the U.S.

The largest concentration of Nicaraguan Americans in the U.S., about 79,559, is in Miami, Florida, most notably around the areas of Sweetwater and "Little Managua". Sweetwater has the highest concentration of Nicaraguan American in the U.S., in 2000 16.63% of Sweetwater residents identified as being of Nicaraguan heritage. This was the highest percentage of Nicaraguan Americans of any place in the country. As a result, Sweetwater is locally known as "Little Managua" after Managua, the Nicaraguan capital. However, the area of "Little Havana" in Miami is also colloquially called "Little Managua even though Sweetwater has a higher number of Nicaraguan Americans.

California hosts the second largest concentration, most notably in the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles and San Francisco. The number of Nicaraguan Americans living in California was 51,336 in 2000.[11]


6000-year-old human footprints preserved in volcanic mud near the lake in Managua, Nicaragua.

It is known that Nicaragua was inhabited by Paleo-Indians as far back as 6000 years. The ancient footprints of Acahualinca confirms it along with other archaeological evidences, mainly ceramics and statues made of volcanic stone like the ones found on the island of Zapatera and petroglyphs found in Ometepe island. At the end of the 15th century, western Nicaragua was inhabited by several indigenous peoples related by culture and language to the Mayans. However, within three decades an estimated Indian population of one million plummeted to a few tens of thousands, as approximately half of the indigenous people in western Nicaragua died of diseases brought by the Spaniards. The Caribbean coast of Nicaragua was inhabited by indigenous peoples who were mostly chibcha related groups that had migrated from South America, primarily present day Colombia and Venezuela. These groups include the Miskitos, Ramas and Sumos which lived a less sedentary life based on hunting and gathering.[12]

During the 1979 uprising, many wealthy families left Nicaragua. The Sandinista revolution during the 1980s brought a wave of Nicaraguan refugees into the U.S.,[13] and the largest wave of documented immigrants. Many Nicaraguans also fled to nearby Costa Rica and other countries. Over 62 percent of the total documented immigration from 1979 to 1988 occurred after 1984.[10]

Many Nicaraguans who immigrated did so to escape poverty, in Santa Clara County, California, the Nicaraguan public benefits recipients reported that in their families, 43% have one self-employed person or business owner, and 14% of the families have two such persons.[8] However, nearly all of the estimated 200,000 Nicaraguans who fled to the U.S. (and other nearby Central American countries) between 1978 and 1979 returned after the victory of the Sandinistas in 1979.[14]

Culture and traditions

Nicaraguan culture has strong folklore, music and religious traditions, deeply influenced by European culture but enriched with Amerindian sounds and flavors. Nicaraguan culture can further be defined in several distinct strands. The Pacific coast has strong folklore, music and religious traditions, deeply influenced by Iberian. It was colonized by Spain and has a similar culture to other Spanish-speaking Latin American countries. The Caribbean coast of the country, on the other hand, was once a British protectorate. English is still predominant in this region and spoken domestically along with Spanish and indigenous languages. Its culture is similar to that of Caribbean nations that were or are British possessions, such as Jamaica, Belize, The Cayman Islands, etc. The indigenous groups that were present in the Pacific coast have largely been assimilated into the mestizo culture, however, the indigenous people of the Caribbean coast have maintained a distinct identity.

Nicaraguan music is a mixture of indigenous and European, especially Spanish, influences. Musical instruments include the marimba and others common across Central America. The marimba of Nicaragua is uniquely played by a sitting performer holding the instrument on his knees. He is usually accompanied by a bass fiddle, guitar and guitarrilla (a small guitar like a mandolin). This music is played at social functions as a sort of background music. The marimba is made with hardwood plates, placed over bamboo or metal tubes of varying lengths. It is played with two or four hammers. The Caribbean coast of Nicaragua is known for a lively, sensual form of dance music called Palo de Mayo which is very much alive all throughout the country. It is especially loud and celebrated during the Palo de Mayo festival in May. The Garifuna community exists in Nicaragua and is known for its popular music called Punta.

Celebrating the annual "Alegria por la vida" Carnaval in Managua, Nicaragua

Literature of Nicaragua can be traced to pre-Columbian times with the myths and oral literature that formed the cosmogonic view of the world that indigenous people had. Some of these stories are still know in Nicaragua. Like many Latin American countries, the Spanish conquerors have had the most effect on both the culture and the literature. Nicaraguan literature has historically been an important source of poetry in the Spanish-speaking world, with internationally renowned contributors such as Rubén Darío who is regarded as the most important literary figure in Nicaragua, referred to as the "Father of Modernism" for leading the modernismo literary movement at the end of the 19th century.[15] Other literary figures include Ernesto Cardenal, Gioconda Belli, Claribel Alegría and José Coronel Urtecho, among others.

El Güegüense is a satirical drama and was the first literary work of pre-Columbian Nicaragua. It is regarded as one of Latin America's most distinctive colonial-era expressions and as Nicaragua's signature folkloric masterpiece combining music, dance and theater.[15] The theatrical play was written by an anonymous author in the 16th century, making it one of the oldest indigenous theatrical/dance works of the Western Hemisphere.[16] The story was published in a book in 1942 after many centuries.[17]


A sign in Bluefields in English (top), Spanish (middle) and Miskito (bottom).
An English speaking creole from Bluefields.

Spanish is spoken by about 90% of the country's population. In Nicaragua the Voseo form is common, just as in other countries in Central and South America like Honduras, Argentina, Uruguay or coastal Colombia. Spanish has many different dialects spoken throughout Latin America, Central American Spanish is the dialect spoken in Nicaragua. In the Caribbean coast many afro-Nicaraguans and creoles speak English and creole English as their first language. Also in the Caribbean coast, many Indigenous people speak their native languages, such as the Miskito, Sumo, Rama and Garifuna language.[18] In addition, many ethnic groups in Nicaragua, such as the Chinese Nicaraguans and Palestinian Nicaraguans, have maintained their ancestral languages, which are minority languages, while also speaking Spanish and/or English. These minority languages include Chinese, Arabic, German, and Italian, among others.

The language and pronunciation varies depending on region. Some Nicaraguans pronounce the word vos with a strong s sound at the end. In the central part of the country, regions like Boaco prounce vos without the s sound at the end. The result is vo, similar to vous in French and voi in Italian.

Nicaragua has a total of 3 extinct languages, one of which was never classified. Nicaraguan Sign Language is also of particular interest to linguists.


The flag of Nicaragua

The flag of Nicaragua was adopted on August 27, 1971. It is based on the flag of the United States of Central America. The two blue stripes represented the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea; while white symbolizes peace. A modern interpretation indicates that the color blue symbolizes justice and loyalty; while the color white represents virtue and purity. The coat of arms features an equilateral triangle which represents equality. Inside the triangle are five volcanoes, which represent the five members of the federation. The triangle also contains symbols of liberty and peace which is represented by a red Phrygian cap, white rays and a rainbow].

See also


  1. ^ a b "VIII Censo de Poblacion y IV de Vivienda" (PDF). Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos (in Spanish). October 2005. Retrieved 2007-07-07. 
  2. ^ "Nicaragua: People groups". Joshua Project. Retrieved 2007-03-26. 
  3. ^ Vargas, Juan Carlos. "Nicaraguans in Costa Rica and the United States: Data from Ethnic Surveys". California Center for Population Research. Retrieved 2007-10-02. 
  4. ^ "Background Note: Costa Rica; People". U.S. State Department. Retrieved 2007-10-02. 
  5. ^ "Best Practices Concerning Migrant Workers and their Families" (PDF). UNESCO. Retrieved 2007-10-02. 
  6. ^ "2005 American Community Survey". U.S. Census Bureau, 2006. Retrieved 2007-10-02. 
  7. ^ Orlov, Ann; Reed Veda (1980). "Central and South Americans," Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups. Harvard University Press. pp. 210–217. 
  8. ^ a b "Context for Nicaraguan Immigration". Retrieved 2007-05-24. 
  9. ^ "1990 U.S. Census". U.S. Census Bureau. 1990. Retrieved 2007-05-24. 
  10. ^ a b Funkhouser, Edward (1992). Migration from Nicaragua: Some Recent Evidence. World Development, Volume 20. p. 1210. 
  11. ^ "Census 2000 Demographic Profile Highlights: Nicaraguans". U.S. Census Bureau. 2000. Retrieved 2007-05-24. 
  12. ^ "Nicaragua: VI History". Encarta. Archived from the original on 2009-11-01. Retrieved 2007-06-13. 
  13. ^ H. Lundquist, Jennifer; Douglas S. Massey (2005). The Contra War and Nicaraguan Migration to the United States. Journal of Latin American Studies. pp. 29–53. 
  14. ^ Y. Hamamoto, Darrell; Rodolfo D. Torres (1997). New American Destinies: A Reader in Contemporary Asian and Latino Immigration. Routledge. p. 108.  
  15. ^ a b "Showcasing Nicaragua's Folkloric Masterpiece - El Gueguense - and Other Performing and Visual Arts". Retrieved 2007-08-03. 
  16. ^ "Native Theatre: El Gueguense". Smithsonian Institution. Archived from the original on 2007-12-06. Retrieved 2007-08-03. 
  17. ^ "El Güegüense o Macho Ratón". ViaNica. Retrieved 2007-08-03. 
  18. ^ "Languages of Nicaragua". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2007-05-09. 
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