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Nicaragua is the largest country in the Central American isthmus. The first Spanish permanent settlements in Nicaragua were founded in 1524. Without women in their parties, the Spanish took indigenous wives and partners, beginning the multiethnic mix of native and European stock now known as mestizo which constitutes the majority of the populations in western Nicaragua. The Captaincy General of Guatemala, which Nicaragua was a part of, was dissolved in September of 1821 and the country became part of the First Mexican Empire. After the monarch of the First Mexican Empire was overthrown in 1823, Nicaragua joined the newly formed United Provinces of Central America, which was later renamed the Federal Republic of Central America. Nicaragua became an independent republic in 1838.
Britain occupied the Caribbean Coast in the first half of the 19th century, but gradually ceded control of the region in subsequent decades. Nicaragua has experienced several military dictatorships, the longest being the Somoza family, who ruled for 43 years beginning in 1927. Violent opposition to governmental manipulation and corruption spread to all classes by 1978, resulting in a short-lived civil war that brought the Marxist Sandinista guerrillas to power in 1979 with Daniel Ortega becoming president. In 1990, a coalition of anti-Sandinista parties led by Violeta Chamorro defeated the Sandinistas. Former Sandinista president Daniel Ortega was elected president in 2006 and reelected in 2011.
Nicaragua is primarily an agricultural country, with the main crops being coffee, sugarcane, cotton and bananas. However, over the last decade tourism has grown into the second largest industry. The main tourist attractions in Nicaragua are the beaches, scenic routes, the architecture of cities such as Leon and Granada, and most recently ecotourism and agroiourism, particularly in northern Nicaragua.
Nicaraguan culture has strong folklore, music and religious traditions, influenced by both European and Amerindian cultures. The Pacific coast, colonized by Spain has a similar culture to other Spanish-speaking Latin American countries. The indigenous groups that historically inhabited this coast have largely been assimilated into the mestizo culture. On the Caribbean coast, English is still predominately spoken along with Spanish and indigenous languages. Its culture is similar to that of Caribbean nations that were under British rule, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, etc. Unlike the west coast, the indigenous populations of this coast have maintained distinct identities and some still speak their native languages.
This mixture of cultural traditions has generated substantial diversity in art and literature, particularly the latter given the literary contributions of such Nicaraguan poets and writers as Ruben Dario, Pablo Antonio Cuadra and Ernesto Cardenal.
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