The modern Nicaragua history begins when the small nation received its name from an Amerindian chief that went by the name Nicarao. He was the ruler of an ancient tribe that inhabited the area around Lake Nicaragua. It was in 1502 that the first Europeans made contact with the indigenous tribal people of the region, in the form of Christopher Columbus. During this period of Nicaragua history, there were a number of tribes that had settled in the area. The Sumo Amerindians, who played an important part in the early history of Nicaragua, were situated in the northern region of the country, the Miskitos inhabited the eastern part of the region and both Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua were populated by other indigenous agricultural tribes.
It wasn’t until 20 years after Columbus had landed that the first Spanish settlements were founded by a man called Gil González de Ávila in 1522, a man who would become an important part of Nicaragua history. Two years on from his arrival at these lands, Gil González de Ávila, founded the 2 main towns of modern day Nicaragua. These towns were Granada, which was built on Lake Nicaragua - a place that has always been central to the history of Nicaragua - and Leon, which was constructed on Lake Managua.
For the next 300 years of Nicaragua history, the nation was under the rule of the captaincy-general of Guatemala. However, after almost three centuries of Spanish rule, Nicaragua history was changed forever as the country fell under the banner of Mexico, and then soon after as part of a federation of independent Central American provinces named the United Provinces of Central America in 1821. Finally in 1838 Nicaragua was awarded its independence and became The Republic of Nicaragua.
The country’s development is recorded in Nicaragua history as being persistently marred by the constant rivalry between its conservatives and its liberals. The liberals were based in Leon and the conservatives in Granada. It wasn’t uncommon for the opposing factions to engage in civil war during Nicaragua history.
In the year of 1856 William Walker, an American, attained the presidency, the first and only white American in Nicaragua history to do so, after having been asked to join in the struggles of the Liberals. However, a year later the opposing parties united in a coup that drove him out of power. In the power vacuum that followed, the Conservatives managed to gain control of the country, and this rule lasted for 30 years. It was then that the Liberals gained power due to a division in the Conservatives camp. Jose Santos Zelaya took advantage of this division and brought them to power for the first time in Nicaragua history in 1893. During the rule of the Liberals under Jose Santos Zelaya, an agreement was reached with Britain about a long-running dispute over the Atlantic coast, another important event in Nicaragua history.
In 1909 the Conservatives grew in strength again and sparked off a new rebellion in Nicaragua history, this time against Zelaya himself, after the Americans provided assistance to the party due to some concerns they had over the way the country was being run. For example, the Americans were unhappy over several proposals Zelaya made regarding the planned Nicaraguan canal. Following an incident in which two Americans were executed for planting a land mine, US forces made Nicaragua history and invaded and occupied the country, a move which forced Zelaya to resign as president later that year. Apart from a nine month lay off during 1925, the Americans had troops occupying Nicaragua from 1912 right up till 1933, the longest ever period of occupation in the history of Nicaragua. This was a tumultuous period in Nicaragua history, as US forces were constantly battling the Liberal’s rebellion before they finally reached an agreement in 1927. However, Nicaragua history was not settled by then as a rebel general who went by the name of Augusto Sandino refused to accept the truce and continued to be a thorn in the side of the Americans until they finally left due to the Great Depression in the US.
It was in 1933 that the Americans found a way to get the Conservatives and the Liberals to strike and deal. National Guard Cmdr. Anastasio Somoza Garcia was too clever for his opponents and managed to land himself the presidency for the first time in Nicaragua history in 1936 after Sandino was assassinated. Somoza was succeeded by his two sons and the long rein of the Garcia family in Nicaragua history lasted until 1979. They also maintained a very close relationship with the US government which certainly did no harm to their dynasty.
Their long term in power, the longest ever in Nicaragua history, was ended by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), a hugely popular pro-communist movement who had been raging a small war against the Garcia dynasty in a guerrilla war fare style. Supported by the huge and largely impoverished working classes, it wasn’t long before this new regime began installing socialist policies, such as nationalizing private property, private industries and funding other left-wing groups . While to many Nicaraguans, the FSLN were seen as the country’s saviours, their policies did not go down at all well with the American government, who once again became involved in Nicaragua history, with the Reagan administration cutting all aid to Nicaragua in 1981. Yet again the Americans were involved in assisting the rebellion who came in the form of the notorious Contras armed resistance group. The Americans put further pressure on the Nicaraguan leaders when they enforced an embargo on any trade between the two countries.
All the external and internal pressing finally paid dividends in 1990 when there were fresh elections. Despite being incredibly confident, with hundreds of thousands of supporters attending pre-election rallies, the Sandinistas amazingly lost the election, to a coalition of anti-government parties. Under international scrutiny the elections were deemed as being fair and just. The people of Nicaragua had ’officially’ spoken, despite the huge support for the Sandinistas, and so the leader of the National Opposition Union, Violeta Barrios de Chamorro, was honoured by being named as president of the nation for the first time in Nicaragua history. She stayed in office for almost 7 prosperous years where he helped to stabilize the economy.
Since then, there have been three more equally fair and just elections, making the present day era one of the most stable in Nicaragua history. The most recent elections, in 2007, saw the return to power of long time Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega, giving the left-wing socialists a second shot at governing the country and perfecting their ideals until the next elections, due in 2011.