Nicaragua officially the Republic of Nicaragua (Spanish: República de Nicaragua, is the largest country in Central America. Nicaragua is bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. Nicaragua is located at the center of the Central American isthmus that forms a land bridge between North and South America. The country is situated between 11 and 14 degrees north of the Equator in the Northern Hemisphere, which places it entirely within the tropics. The Pacific Ocean lies to the west, and the Caribbean Sea to the east; Nicaragua's Caribbean coast is part of the Western Caribbean Zone. The country's physical geography divides it into three major zones: Pacific lowlands, wet, cooler central highlands, and the Caribbean Lowlands. On the Pacific side of the country are the two largest fresh water lakes in Central America—Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua. Surrounding these lakes and extending to their northwest along the rift valley of the Gulf of Fonseca are fertile lowland plains, whose soil is highly enriched with ash from nearby volcanoes. Nicaragua's abundance of biologically significant and unique ecosystems contribute to Mesoamerica's designation as a biodiversity hotspot. The Central American Volcanic Arc runs through the spine of the country, earning Nicaragua its notably famous nickname: The Land of Lakes and Volcanoes.
The Spanish Empire conquered the region in the 16th century and the territory became associated with the Viceroyalty of New Spain and later the Captaincy General of Guatemala. Alongside the Spanish, the British established a protectorate on the eastern seaboard beginning in the middle of the 17th century, and ending roughly two centuries later with the rise of the Spanish Viceroyalty of New Granada in the coast. The eastern seaboard retains its colonial heritage; English and Jamaican Patois are commonly spoken and the culture in the Atlantic region identifies as being more Caribbean. In 1821, Nicaragua achieved its independence from Spain and joined the Federal Republic of Central America in 1823, later leaving the Federal Republic in 1838. Nicaragua increasingly became a subject of substantial interest because of its geographic position for a canal that would service the Windward Passage. Roughly a century after operations of the Panama Canal commenced and one hundred and eighty five years after the initial plans for the Nicaraguan Canal waterway, the prospect of a Nicaraguan ecocanal has remained the subject of interest, with its construction in progress. Eighteen years after leaving the federal Republic it also became the center of William Walker's Golden Circle filibustering in Central America. Since its independence, Nicaragua has undergone periods of political unrest, military intervention on behalf of the United States, dictatorship and fiscal crisis—the most notable causes that lead to the Nicaraguan Revolution. Although the Somoza family ruled the country in the form of a dictatorship for forty years, Nicaragua was among the first countries to sign the United Nations Charter in 1945. Prior to the revolution, Nicaragua was one of Central America's wealthiest and most developed countries. The revolutionary conflict, paired with Nicaragua's 1972 earthquake reversed the country's prior economic standing. Despite the harsh economic effects of both phenomena, Nicaragua is a representative democratic republic which has experienced economic growth and political stability in recent years. In 1990, Nicaragua elected Violeta Chamorro as its president, making it the first country in the Americas and in Latin American history to democratically elect a female head of state and the second country in the Western Hemisphere to do so, following Iceland's democratic election of Vigdís Finnbogadóttir.
The population in Nicaragua, hovering at approximately 6 million, is multiethnic. Roughly one quarter of the nation's population lives in the capital city,...
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