Largest country in Central America, despite the smallness of its territory, Nicaragua is a typical example of the evils and shared hopes for other nations in Latin America: a tormented past by civil wars, foreign interventions and poverty, and a gift of many uncertainties to the future.
Nicaragua, with a surface area of 131,670 km 2 , is limited to the north by Honduras, to the south by Costa Rica, to the east by the Caribbean Sea, part of the Atlantic, and to the west by the Pacific.
Geology and relief
From southeast to northwest, Nicaragua is crossed by a stretch of the Central American mountain range, formed by folds from the tertiary period. Its branches are given local names, such as the Isabelia and Dariense mountain ranges, in the center-north, and Huapí, Amerrique and Yolaina, in the southeast. The mountains are higher in the north, and the Mogotón peak (2.103m), in the Entre Ríos mountain range, is the culmination of the country. Seismic activity is frequent in the country, with earthquakes that are sometimes devastating.
Next to the Pacific coast, there is a mountain range with about forty volcanoes, some of which are active. The highest are San Cristóbal (1,780m), Concepción (1,557m) and Momotombo (1,360m). Between the volcanoes and mountain ranges in the center of the country there is a low area with numerous lakes, including Managua and Nicaragua.
The eastern region of the country is made up of eroded plains and plateaus, formed mainly of recent sediments. On the Atlantic coast, on the so-called Costa dos Mosquitos, there are many mangroves and lagoons.
According to YOUREMAILVERIFIER, Nicaragua has a tropical climate, with high temperatures throughout the year. The annual average of 27º C on the Pacific coast and 26º C on the Atlantic coast, only decreases (18º C) in the northern mountains. The average rainfall is 1,910mm per year in the west, where the dry season runs from December to April.
The Atlantic coast, due to the northeast trade winds, has very high rainfall totals, which reach 6,588 mm per year in San Juan del Norte. The dry season in the region lasts only from March to May.
Aside from Negro and Estero Real, few rivers stand out on the Pacific side. The Atlantic Ocean has longer and more flowing streams, including the Coco, Prinzapolca, Grande de Matagalpa, Escondido and San Juan rivers.
The west is a region of many lakes. Nicaragua (8,157 km 2 ), the largest in Central America, is separated from the Pacific by an 18 km strip at its narrowest point, and flows into the Atlantic via the San Juan River, which flows into it. It has numerous islands, including Ometepe, with the Madeiras volcano, and is linked to Lake Managua (1,049 km 2 ) by the Tipitapa river. Other lakes are Apoyo, Jiloá and Tiscapa, all of volcanic origin.
Flora and fauna
The rainforest covers the eastern portion of the country. Subtropical species appear on the plateaus. In the west, deciduous tropical forest and savannas predominate.
Crocodiles, turtles, lizards and snakes inhabit the hot and humid areas. In the forests there are deer, monkeys, caititus and felines such as the puma and the jaguar. There is a wide variety of land and water birds, rodents and insects.
Most of the inhabitants of Nicaragua are made up of mestizos, especially those of Indians with whites. There are minorities of whites, blacks, mainly on the coast of the Caribbean, and indigenous remnants of the Amerindian peoples. The population, unevenly distributed, is concentrated in the area of the lakes, where the largest cities and industries are located.
Managua, the capital, is the country’s largest city. Other important urban centers are León, Masaya, Granada and Chinandega, in the west; Matalgalpa, Estelí, Juigalpa and Jinotega, in the mountains of central Nicaragua; and, on the Caribbean coast, Bluefields and Puerto Cabezas.
The official language is Spanish. Some groups communicate in English or in indigenous languages.
Agriculture, livestock and fishing. Nicaragua’s economy is basically agricultural. The most important products, largely destined for export, are coffee and cotton. Corn, sugar cane, sorghum, bananas, rice and wheat are also grown.
Livestock is an important source of leather, meat and dairy products in the west and meat in the east. The sector expanded after the Second World War, but the conflicts of the 1980s changed this trend, as many farmers reduced their livestock or settled in neighboring countries. The expansion of forestry was also interrupted as a result of these conflicts. Oceanic, fluvial and lake fishing uses traditional techniques.
Energy and mining
Nicaragua has great hydroelectric potential and its most important plant is that of the Tuma River. There are deposits of iron ore, lead and copper, among other minerals, but the only important extractive activities are gold and – to a lesser extent – copper.
Little industrialized, Nicaragua mainly produces food and beverages: refined sugar, vegetable oils, beer and rum. It also has oil refineries and textile industries.
The transport system is concentrated in the west of the country. Roads connect most cities, but some are impassable in the rainy season. The Pan American highway crosses the country and connects it to Honduras and Costa Rica. The rail system connects the cities of Corinth, Chinandega, León, Managua, Masaya and Granada.
Navigation, intense in the lakes and between inland islands, is also practiced in some rivers. The main seaports are San Juan del Sur and Puerto Sandino, in the Pacific, and Puerto Cabezas and Bluefields, in the Caribbean. The main airport is 11 km from Managua. Puerto Cabezas also has an airport.