Before the arrival of the Europeans in the 16th century, many different indigenous peoples lived in the area of today’s Nicaragua, a country located in Caribbean and Central America listed on naturegnosis. The Niquirano and Chorotega were the largest among them and lived in the west. After 500 BC BC Pipil immigrated from Mexico. The Miskito, Mayangna and Rama lived on the Caribbean coast.
In 1502, Christopher Columbus set foot on the American mainland for the first time on his fourth trip to the New World. He had only been to islands before. Now he landed in what would later become Honduras and sailed down the coast to the mouth of the Río San Juan, that is, along the whole of today’s Caribbean coast of Nicaragua.
Conquest by the Spaniards
In 1522 Gil González Dávila undertook raids from Panama to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. He was a Spanish conquistador. He brought a lot of gold with him from this trip. But intrigues among one another determined the further course of action of the conquistadors. Hernán Cortés’s men came from the north. The governor of Panama, Pedrarias Dávila, sent Francisco Hernández de Córdoba from the south to the north.
Hernández de Córdoba founded the first cities there: Granada in 1523 and León in 1524. He is considered the founder of Nicaragua. The country’s currency is named after him. In 1527 Pedrarias Dávila became the first governor of Nicaragua after he had Hernández de Córdoba executed as a traitor.
Some indigenous peoples resisted and fought against the conquerors. Others, including the Kazike (leader, “chief”) Nicarao, surrendered their land without resistance. Nicarao ruled on Lake Nicaragua near Rivas. His people were the Niquirano, who belong to the Nahua peoples. Nicarao is considered to be the namesake of the country, but there is also the theory that it is derived from the Nahuatl language, in which nican means “here” and aráhuac means “people”. The Niquirano gave gold to the Spaniards and were baptized.
Death and enslavement of the indigenous people
Many indigenous people lost their lives in the next few years: through diseases that the Europeans brought in and against which they were not immune, or in battles against the Spaniards. Others were dragged off to Panama or on to Peru and Bolivia to the silver mines there and enslaved. Nicaragua was depopulated. In 1550, only around 5000 Indians are said to have lived there.
Viceroyalty of New Spain (until 1821)
The Spaniards called their colony the Viceroyalty of New Spain. It was ruled by a viceroy, who was a kind of representative for the Spanish king. It extended over all of Central America and also part of today’s USA was part of it. More and more settlers from Spain came to the “New World”. Several indigenous uprisings against the Spaniards were put down in the 18th century.
Miskito coast in British hands
However, the Spaniards were unable to gain a foothold on the Caribbean coast, the Mosquitia or Miskito coast. The Miskito who lived here formed an alliance with the British. The first British settled in 1630 and from 1655 the Mosquitia was a British protectorate (“sanctuary”). It was not until 1860 that Great Britain gave the area to the then independent Nicaragua.
Independence in 1821 and member of the Central American Confederation (1823-1839)
In 1810 the struggle for independence began in Mexico, which was victoriously ended in 1821. The area south of today’s Mexican state joined the new Mexican Empire in 1821. With the end of the Empire in 1823, however, it broke away from Mexico and founded the Central American Confederation. It consisted of the states of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Nicaragua left in 1838. The confederation existed until 1839. Several later attempts to revive the union failed.
The contrast between the Conservative and Liberal parties became apparent as early as the 19th century. This led to civil wars in the 1840s and 1850s.