Nicaragua lies at the heart of Central America. The Sandinista revolution of 1978 led to 11 years of civil war between the left-wing Sandinistas and the right-wing US-backed Contras.
Geography: Extensive forested plains in the east. Central mountain region with many active volcanoes. The Pacific coastlands are dominated by lakes.
Climate: Tropical. The lowlands are hot all year round. The mountains are cooler. Prone to occasional hurricanes.
People and Society: Most of the population is mixed race, and there is a large white elite. The Caribbean regions are home to communities of Miskito Amerindians and blacks, who gained autonomy in 1987. The revolution improved the status of women, but these gains have been undone by rampant poverty.
The Economy: Textiles, coffee, meat, tobacco are main exports: affected by world price fluctuations. Remittances from abroad. Substantial debt relief has cut debt to 60% of GDP. Corruption.
Insight: Lake Nicaragua is the only freshwater lake in the world to contain marine animals
Official Name: Republic of Nicaragua
Date of Formation: 1838
Population: 5.74 million
Total Area: 49,998 sq. miles (129,494 sq. km)
Density: 125 people per sq. mile)
Languages: Spanish*, English Creole, Miskito
Religions: Roman Catholic 80%, Protestant Evangelical 17%, other 3%
Ethnic Mix: Mestizo 69%, White 14%, Black 8%, Amerindian 5%, Zambo 4%
Government: Presidential system
Currency: Córdoba oro = 100 centavos