IDnicaragua: The Great East-West Divide
Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America and one of the poorest in the entire world. But it is also one of the most culturally-rich, and subsequently, one of the happiest. With a population consisting primarily of mestizos, or mixed-race people, the fact that a surprising number of people here can communicate in broken English (despite Spanish being, obviously, the vastly dominant language) is a testament to their diverse heritage.
What is particularly interesting about Nicaragua’s cultural mix is the physical divide: the country is less than 500 kilometers across, and yet East and West are vastly different here. The West, which includes the capital Managua and a majority of the population, was originally colonized by Spain. As such, it has maintained a similar heritage to most other Latin American countries, deeply influenced by Iberian culture.
The East, however, has a vastly different history. Once a British protectorate, it is more culturally similar to the islands of the Caribbean, many of which were once or are still today British-ruled. English is still widely spoken amongst these people, although continued immigration by Spanish speakers has tipped the scales in favor of that language. Still, the large population of mixed African colonists from the Caribbean, as well as the indigenous Garifuna (similar to Belize to the north), Miskito, Rama and Sumo people, have ensured that while small, the people from the East have kept Nicaragua’s cultural heritage diverse.