Culture of Nicaragua has many influences. The western part was colonized by the Spanish and its culture is similar to that of other Hispanic countries. The inhabitants of western Nicaragua are mostly triracial(Indigenous, West African, European) and the main language is invariably Spanish.
The northern region, however, was inhabited mostly by German migrants, and to a lesser extent Polish and Dutch. The inhabitants of the northern part are mostly white and in to a lesser extent mestizos(Indigenous, European).
Music and religious icons find their roots in Iberian culture, West African sounds, and Indigenous flavors.The west of Nicaragua was colonized by Spain and has a similar culture to other Spanish-speaking American countries. The eastern half of the country, on the other hand, was once a British protectorate, and English is spoken domestically along with Spanish and indigenous languages. Its culture is similar to that of former and present British colonies in the Caribbean, such as Jamaica, Belize, the Cayman Islands, etc.
Recent immigration by Spanish speakers has largely influenced younger generations, and an increasing number of people are either bilingual at home or speak Spanish only. There is a relatively large population of people of mixed African descent, as well as a smaller Garifuna population.
Due to the African influence in the East Coast, there exists a different kind of music. It is the popular dance music called 'Palo de Mayo', or Maypole, which is celebrated during the Maypole Festival, during the month of May. The music is sensual with intense rhythms. The celebration is derived from the British Maypole for May Day celebration, as adapted and transformed by the Afro-Nicaraguans on the Caribbean or Mosquito Coast.
Of the many cultures that were present before European colonization, the Nahuatl and Chibcha peoples who populated the west and center the country have essentially been assimilated into the mainstream culture. In the east, however, several indigenous groups have maintained a distinct identity. The Miskito, Sumo, Garifuna, and Rama people still use their original languages, and also usually speak Spanish and English.
Main article: Languages of Nicaragua
Spanish, or Nicañol as Nicaraguan Spanish is sometimes referred to, is spoken by 90% of the country's population. 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.
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. Nicaragua was home to 3 extinct languages, one of which was never classified. Nicaraguan Sign Language is also of particular interest to linguists.
Central American Spanish is spoken by about 90% of the country's population. In Nicaragua, the voseo form of Spanish is dominant in both speech and publications. The first nation to formally adopt the voseo dialect, Nicaragua is one two Central American nations (Costa Rica is the other) that use voseo Spanish as its written and spoken form of the language. The usage is also seen in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and coastal Colombia.
In the Caribbean coast, many Afro-Nicaraguans and creoles speak English and creole English as their first language, but they speak a very fluent Spanish as a second language. The languages in the North and South Atlantic Regions are influenced by English, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish and French. Many of the indigenous people on the Caribbean coast speak native languages such as the Miskito, Sumo, Rama and Garifuna language. In addition, many ethnic groups in Nicaragua have maintained their ancestral languages, while also speaking Spanish or English; these include Chinese, Arabic, German, Urdu, and Italian.
Spanish is taught as the principal language. English is taught to students during their high school years and tends to be the national second language. Other languages, particularly Romance languages, can be found sporadically.
Some characteristics of Nicaraguan phonology include:
Main article: Religion in Nicaragua
|Religious affiliation in Nicaragua|
|1 Includes Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and traditional religion among other religions.|
|Source: 2005 Nicaraguan Census|
Religion is a significant part of the culture of Nicaragua and forms part of the constitution. Religious freedom, which has been guaranteed since 1939, and religious tolerance is promoted by both the Nicaraguan government and the constitution. Bishops are expected to lend their authority to important state occasions, and their pronouncements on national issues are closely followed. They can also be called upon to mediate between contending parties at moments of political crisis.
Although Nicaragua has no official religion it is nominally Roman Catholic. Practicing Roman Catholics are no longer the majority and are declining while evangelical Protestant groups and membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are growing rapidly have been growing since the 1990s. There are also strong Anglican and Moravian communities on the Caribbean coast.
Roman Catholicism came to Nicaragua in the sixteenth century with the Spanish conquest and remained until 1939 the established faith. Protestantism and other Christian sects came to Nicaragua during the nineteenth century, but only during the twentieth century have Protestant denominations gained large followings in the Caribbean Coast of the country. Popular religion revolves around the saints, who are perceived as intermediaries between human beings and God.
Most localities, from the capital of Managua to small rural communities, honor patron saints selected from the Roman Catholic calendar, with annual fiestas. In many communities, a rich lore has grown up around the celebrations of patron saints, such as Managua's Saint Dominic (Santo Domingo), honored in August with two colorful, often riotous, day-long processions through the city. The high point of Nicaragua's religious calendar for the masses is neither Christmas nor Easter, but La Purísima, a week of festivities in early December dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, during which elaborate altars to the Virgin Mary are constructed in homes and workplaces.
Main article: Music of Nicaragua
Modern Nicaraguan music is a mixture of indigenous and European, especially Spanish, influences. Musical instruments include the marimba and others common across Central America.
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 Guallatiri (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 that is especially loud and celebrated during the May Palo de Mayo festival. The Garifuna community exists in Nicaragua and is known for its popular music called Punta. Also, soca music, reggaeton and reggae are popular throughout the country.
Main article: Education in Nicaragua
Education is free for all Nicaraguans. Elementary education is free and compulsory, however, many children in rural areas are unable to attend due to lack of schools and other reasons. Communities located on the Caribbean coast have access to education in their native languages. The majority of higher education institutions are located in Managua, higher education has financial, organic and administrative autonomy, according to the law. Also, freedom of subjects is recognized.
Nicaragua's higher education consists of 48 universities and 113 colleges and technical institutes which serve student in the areas of electronics, computer systems and sciences, agroforestry, construction and trade-related services. The educational system includes 1 U.S. accredited English-language university, 3 Bilingual university programs, 5 Bilingual secondary schools and dozens of English Language Institutes. In 2005, almost 400,000 (7%) of Nicaraguans held a university degree. 18% of Nicaragua's total budget is invested in primary, secondary and higher education. University level institutions account for 6% of 18%.
When the Sandinistas came to power in 1979, they inherited an educational system that was one of the poorest in Latin America. Under the Somozas, limited spending on education and generalized poverty, which forced many adolescents into the labor market, constricted educational opportunities for Nicaraguans. A 1980 literacy campaign, using secondary school students, university students as well as teachers as volunteer teachers, reduced the overall illiteracy rate from 50.3% to 12.9% within only five months. The key large scale programs of the Sandinistas included a massive National Literacy Crusade (March–August, 1980), social program, which received international recognition for their gains in literacy, health care, education, childcare, unions, and land reform. In September 1980, UNESCO awarded Nicaragua with the "Nadezhda K. Krupskaya" award for their successful literacy campaign. This was followed by the literacy campaigns of 1982, 1986, 1987, 1995 and 2000, all of which were also awarded by UNESCO.
Main article: Nicaraguan literature
Nicaraguan literature 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 known 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.
Other literary figures include Ernesto Cardenal, Gioconda Belli, Claribel Alegría and José Coronel Urtecho, Alfredo Alegría Rosales, Carlos Martínez Rivas, Pablo Antonio Cuadra, Manolo Cuadra, Pablo Alberto Cuadra Arguello, Sergio Ramírez among others.
Main article: El Güegüense
El Güegüense is a satirical drama and was the first literary work of the 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. El Güegüense is performed during the feast of San Sebastián in Diriamba (Carazo Department) from January 17 to the 27th.
The theatrical play was written by an anonymous author in the 16th century, making it one of the oldest theatrical/dance works of the Western Hemisphere. It was passed down orally for many centuries until it was finally written down and published into a book in 1942.
El Güegüense represents folklore of Nicaragua, therefore, UNESCO proclaimed it a "Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity" in 2005 making Nicaragua the only country in Central America and one of six in Latin America to have 2 proclaimed masterpieces by UNESCO. The first proclaimed masterpiece was the "Oral traditions and expressions" of the Garifuna.
Nicaraguans legends are similar to those found in other Latin American countries. Some popular legends include: