Nicaragua in Depth: A Peace Corps Publication Info

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Nicaragua probably derives its name from an Indian chief,
Nicarao, who ruled part of the area at the time of the Spanish Conquest.
Christopher Columbus, in 1492, was the first European to touch
Nicaraguan soil. Francisco Hernandez de Córdoba followed in 1524 and
founded the principal colonial cities of Granada and León. Granada
evolved into a stronghold of the aristocracy, and León became the
political and intellectual capital. The rivalry between these cities
persists to this day. For three centuries, Nicaragua was a province of
the Captaincy General of Guatemala, as the Spanish called their
territories south of Mexico. Independence from Spanish rule came in
1821, and, for a short period of time, Nicaragua was a member of the
Central American Federation, which included Guatemala, Honduras, El
Salvador, and Costa Rica. In 1838, Nicaragua became an independent
republic.For the next 100 years, Nicaragua experienced periods of war
and peace, including an attempted takeover by American William Walker in
1855. Walker was defeated and killed by an alliance of Central American
nations. After another period of unrest in the early 1900s, Nicaragua’s
president invited U.S. Marines to restore and maintain order in the
country. In 1934, the government was taken over by General Anastasio
Somoza García, initiating more than 40 years of family rule under a
military dictatorship. In 1972, downtown Managua was destroyed by an
earthquake that killed tens of thousands. Managua was never completely
rebuilt and has become a sprawling city without a center. In 1979, the
Somoza regime was overthrown by a populist revolution, and was replaced
by the Marxist Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), which ruled
until 1990. This period included a U.S. government-supported civil war
against the Sandinista government. A 1989 accord permitted free
elections in 1990, in which Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, known for her
conciliatory nature, became president. Nicaragua has experienced
relative peace since 1990, and the country has celebrated four
successive free elections to date.

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