1) Lake Nicaragua is the second largest freshwater lake in Latin America and the tenth in the world (8,264 square kilometers or 3200 square miles). Lake Titicaca located between Bolivia and Peru in South America at an altitude of 12,500 feet is the largest freshwater lake in Latin America (8,562 square kilometers).
2) Nicaragua has 25 volcanoes and 7 active ones. Cerro Negro located in the northwest pacific of Nicaragua and 20 kilometers east from Leon, is the youngest active volcano of Central America. It is the most active cinder cone and it was formed in 1850. Nicaragua’s highest volcano is San Cristobal in the northwest region with an altitude of 1745 mts.
3) Rio Coco in Nicaragua is the longest river of Central America (680 kms/422 miles) as well as the natural border between Honduras and Nicaragua in the north. It is used as a waterway by many Miskitos communities and it drains in the Caribbean.
4) Even though all Central American countries play soccer, Nicaragua's main and national sport is Baseball. Pitcher Denis Martinez was the first Nicaraguan to play in the major leagues in 1976 for Baltimore Orioles. While playing for the Montreal Expos in 1991, he pitched a perfect game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Denis Martinez retired in 1996, being the Latin American pitcher with more victories in the major leagues (245).
5) Bosawas is one of the two most important Biosphere Reserves in Nicaragua. It is located in the northern region and it covers an area of more than 20,000 square kilometers (the whole size of Belize). Bosawas is the second largest rainforest in the Western Hemisphere, after the Amazon in Brazil. It was designated a UNESCO biosphere reserve in 1997 and it is still largely unexplored.
6) Nicaragua was once considered a major option by Spanish, French, English and Americans to build an inter-oceanic canal that would join the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean through the San Juan River, Lake Nicaragua and the narrow isthmus of Rivas. American senators favored Panama instead of Nicaragua. They considered many risks through Nicaragua because of its many active volcanoes, especially Momotombo whose smoking figure appeared on a stamp, bringing more fear to the investors. Still nowadays some old rusty dredges can be observed at the end of the San Juan River.
7) William Walker was an American from Nashville, Tennessee who attempted to take over Central America. In 1855 he came to Nicaragua invited by the Liberal government of Leon to subdue the Conservative city of Granada. After taking control over Granada, he declared himself the president of Nicaragua. He reinstated slavery and made English the official language of the country. Walker also marched against Costa Rica where he was defeated.
Under the surrounding pressure and his imminent capture by the Liberal and Conservative forces supported by the Central American nations, he ordered the city of Granada to be set on fire. Before abandoning the city, he placed a sign by the shore of Lake Nicaragua that said: “Here was Granada”. In a second endeavor over Central America in 1860, William Walker was captured and judged by the Government of Honduras. He was sentenced to death and his remains rest in Trujillo, Honduras.
8) The name of Nicaragua could have different meanings and its significance is not that clear yet. One of the theories suggests that Nicaragua was probably coined by the Spanish conquerors based upon the name of the Indian chief “Nicarao” who ruled the territory of Rivas, located in the south between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific Ocean.
Some scholars believe that the word Nicaragua is coming from the “Nahuatl” language spoken by the Aztecs. They think that most likely it was “ni-can-atl-hua” which stands for “a place with two big bodies of water” in reference to Lake Nicaragua and Lake Managua. Other intellectuals suggest that “nic-atl-nahauc” means “here by the water”. And even another theory suggests “Nic-Anahuac” signifies “people from Anahuac”.
9) “The footprints of Acahualincas” are the oldest evidence of pre-Columbian inhabitants in Nicaragua and they were radiocarbon dated to 4000 B.C by Mr. Allan Bryan from Alberta University. Exhaustive studies made by archaeologists suggest that this group was composed of ten people, who during their pass through Nicaragua, left on volcanic mud and ash their footprints. Further studies made in Germany on this volcanic material classified the mud and ash as “lahar”, similar samples were found near the Vesubio volcano in Italy in its eruption from 79 A.C.
The footprints were discovered by the American Earl Flint in 1873 after some excavations. More important diggings were carried out by the Carnegie Foundation from Washington between 1941 and 1942 and the first facilities were built by them to protect the footprints. By 1978 the Nicaraguan researcher Jorge Espinoza continued with more excavations finding new footprints. Some samples of these footprints can be appreciated at the Peabody Archaeology Museum of Harvard University as well as the National Museum of the United States.
10) Francisco Urcuyo Maliaños keeps the worldwide record of being the president with one of the shortest times in power. He was in power for just 43 hours in July 1979. This Nicaraguan politician, born in the city of Rivas, graduated as a surgeon from the Autonomous National University of Mexico in 1944. He began his political career in the 50’s, becoming vice-minister of health, a congress man, president of the Congress House, and also vice-president. Nicaragua was facing an uprising and the president Anastasio Somoza decided to abandon the country on the 17th of July 1979. As Mr. Urcuyo Maliaños was the president of the Nicaraguan Congress, he was appointed by law to assume the presidency. During his forty-three hours government, he established dialogues with different political currents and also refused to pass the office to the Government Junta of National Reconstruction. His message to the Sandinista rebels was this: “As the president of the Republic of Nicaragua, I ask to the irregular forces to lay down your weapons, not before something or someone, but before the altar of the country”. His message was not heard and he also abandoned Nicaragua to go into exile in Guatemala for the next thirteen years. Two days later the people of Nicaragua and the Sandinistas were celebrating the fall of Somoza regime on the 19th of July 1979. The ex-president Urcuyo Maliaños died in Managua in 2001.
11) There are more than 440 identified species of sharks in the world but there is only one that can survive in both fresh and salt water. This unique and rare species is called “Bull shark” (Carchahinus Leucas) because of its stout shape, broad, flat snout and unpredictable behavior. Bull sharks swim up San Juan River from the Caribbean coast reaching Lake Nicaragua where they prey for food. They find their best habitat in warm shallow waters.
12) “The Chorotegas” was one of the main pre-Hispanic groups that inhabited mainly the Pacific lowlands of Nicaragua as well as Honduras and Costa Rica. They belonged to the Mesoamerican cultures which extended from Mexico’s central plateau to Costa Rica. At the same time they were influenced by the Olmec civilization which also passed their cultural inheritance to the Maya, Toltec, Aztec, as well as others.
By the time that the Chorotegas made their incursion in 800 AC from the south of Mexico, there were already other indigenous groups on the Nicaragua pacific basin, the Chontales. The Chorotegas represented approximately 40% of the people on the lowlands and they spoke the Oto-Manguean language which is already extinct in Nicaragua but still spoken in some places in Mexico.
13) “Zapatera” is the second largest volcanic island on the northwestern side of Lake Nicaragua. It has an extension of twenty square miles, rectangular in shape with its widest diagonal measuring 6.8 miles. Zapatera’s highest summit is two thousand feet and it is the top of an eroded crater of an extinct volcano. On its northwestern shore is a volcanic lagoon measuring two thousand feet in diameter.
Zapatera was a sacred island where the Mesoamerican indigenous group “Chorotegas” carved on volcanic rocks important animal and human figures to conduct ceremonial rituals. In 1849 the American traveler Ephraim George Squire discovered in Zapatera part of these monumental totems; other important discoveries were made years later in 1883 by the Swedish man Carl Bobalius.
Most of these archaeological findings were taken to the mainland and are now on exhibition mainly at the former San Francisco monastery in Granada. Today Zapatera still preserves some ancient monuments and petro glyphs among its natural settings.
14) All countries in Latin America were historically ruled by male presidents, but this tradition was finally interrupted for the first time in 1990 by Mrs. Violeta Barrios de Chamorro. She was elected president of Nicaragua and became the first woman in power in Latin America. She was voted democratically and stayed in office for 6 years.
15) General Captain Pedro Arias de Avila was a Spanish colonial administrator and the first Governor of Nicaragua and Panama during the Spanish conquest. He was a soldier in wars against the Moors at Granada, in Spain, and in North Africa. He reached Santa Marta in Colombia and then he went to Darien, Panama. Pedro Arias de Avila sent an expedition northward led by Captain Gil Gonzales de Avila in 1522. He sent another expedition under the leadership of Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba who conquered the territory of Nicaragua in 1524. He became the governor of Nicaragua in 1527 and lived the rest of his life in Leon (Viejo) until he died at the age of ninety one in 1531. He was known as a man of unpredictable character, brutal and unscrupulous. He ordered to kill the explorer Vasco Nuñez de Balboa who was the first European to cross Panama and reach the Pacific Ocean in 1513.
16) The largest Cathedral in Central America, between Guatemala and Panama, is found in the colonial city of Leon, Nicaragua. This massive religious temple, dedicated to “La Virgen de la Asuncion”, was initiated in 1747 and not finished until 1860. The Cathedral has rich architecture, influenced by baroque and Neo-classical style. In its interior there are graves of priests, politicians, writers, musicians, famous personalities as well as the most important poet of Nicaragua and father of the Modernism literary movement, “Ruben Dario”. In order to guarantee flexibility in case of earthquake activities, a group of several underground rooms were constructed. One of these rooms is the entrance for a tunnel network connecting the cathedral with other important churches; the idea was to use the tunnels for escapes. Nowadays it is possible to walk on the roof of the cathedral and observe a great part of the city of Leon and a big extension of the Maribios volcanic chain.
17) The American aviator, industrialist, film producer and one of the wealthiest people in the world, Howard Hughes, lived in Nicaragua for almost a year. Mr. Hughes was one of the most influential aviators in history setting multiple air-speed records for which he won many awards, including the Congressional Gold Medal. He was also known for his eccentric behavior and reclusive lifestyle in later life, caused by a worsening obsessive-compulsive disorder. He came to Nicaragua in 1972 to negotiate with Nicaraguan president Anastasio Somoza Debayle the potential investment for an oil pipeline that would cross from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. This huge project was not developed because of the destructive earthquake that destroyed Managua in December 1972. Howard Hughes for his stay in Nicaragua, rented the Presidential Suite on the seventh floor of the old Intercontinental Hotel Managua (today Crown Plaza). He also rented the whole sixth and part of the eighth floors for his employees; he would barely go out and would not allow any hotel maid to come into his room. He would be with his personal doctor, nurse and chef. Mr. Hughes abandoned Nicaragua on December 24th, 1972 after the powerful earthquake of Managua. His life was taken to the big screen on the movie “the Aviator” casted by Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Martin Scorsese.
18) Mombacho volcano is a natural reserve cloud forest located ten kilometers south from the colonial city of Granada. This magnificent top eroded volcano is the shelter of 173 species of birds, 47 species of mammals, 752 species of plants, and 10 species of amphibians. Among this exuberant verdant vegetation a new species of Salamander was discovered by a German biologist. The Bolitoglossa Mombachoensis is an endemic amphibian which finds its perfect habitat at the altitude between 1,040 and 1,250 meters above sea level. This nature wonder is in average 6 centimeters long, its head is fairly wide with slightly protuberant eyes; the female is a little bit bigger than male, and has a round snout, long tail and brown body. Both during the day and night the Bolitoglossa Momboachensis is found in bromeliad plants as well as in heliconias where it benefits from moisture conditions. It prefers temperatures between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius. Further studies continue to discover more interesting information about this distinctive amphibian.