The "Nicaragua" Name
Nicaragua is a word from the Nahualt, an Aztec Language. It was used to call the land occupied by the itshmus between the Pacific ocean and the Nicaragua Lake. It was took from the Chief "Nicarao" who ruled that lands when the first Spaniards arrived. Then the name was used to call all them who inhabitated the territory (the Nicaraguas or Niquiranos)
Nic-atl-nahuac, "aquí junto al agua" which means "here near the water"
Nic Anahuac, "aquí el Anahuac", o "el Anahuac de aquí" which means "here the Anahuac" or "The Anahuac from here".
Nicaraos came from Mexican lands after the Teotihuacan fall. Following their priest (Alfaquíes) advice and according to their traditions, they had to go southwards and never stop until they found a lake with two volcanoes emerging from the water (Ometepe Island).
Patron Saint Festivals
With a population of four million people, Nicaragua is extremely rich in cultural manifestations. Its calendar is plenty of Patron Saint Festivals and celebrations that involve lots of religious symbols and signs which are definitely influenced by the ancient indigenous cultures of which manifestations are present today thanks to the oral tradition.
All celebrations have a solemn mass that is still called función (show) by some locals. The mass is conducted by the local priest or the diocesan bishop.
Following the saints images, people offer flower arrangements and they pay their "promises" with little gold and silver objects and fruit bunches. This is specially common in the Pueblos Blancos.
Everybody take part of these celebrations. Children, parents and the elderly, dance, sing and pray. Food and music are the main components of these manifestations along with Equestrian Parades and Bullfights. All festivities are accompanied by wind bands best known as Chichero Music or Filarmónicas. They play popular songs and Salve Reginas.
Music and Dances
The Marimba is the national instrument. It isconstructed with hardwood plates, placed over bamboo or metal tubes of different lenght. It is played with 2 or 4 soft hammers. It is usually played along with guitars and some percussion instruments.
In the Caribbean coast you will find a different kind of music due to the African influence. The rhythms are intensive, frantic and very sensual. Best time to enjoy them is during the "Palo de Mayo" festival in May.
There is a inmense indigenous theatrical heritage. Indigenous people used to have theatrical manifestations accompanied with beautiful music and dances. Most of them are performed during local festivals and at the Rubén Darío National Theater. The most important are "Los Caballeros Elegantes del Toro Huaco" (The Elegant Knights of the Huaco Bull), La Burla del Güegüense (The Güegüense Gibe, la Burla del Güegüense, el Drama Épico del Gigante. These representations are in most cases associated with the religious festivals and celebrations.
Carlos Mejía Godoy has also composed many of the most famous Nicaraguan songs. It is usual to find a Mejía Godoy's song in almost any Nicaraguan music album. Along with his brother Enrique, they run their own establishment in the Managua's Rose Zone where you can enjoy their music and poetry. Other composers, groups and performers enrich our musical tradition and culture such us Camilo Zapata, Dimensión Costeña group, Luís Enrique "The Salsa Princces", Salvador Cardenal, Katia Cardenal, Lía Barrios and many other great artists. You can find their albums at most music shops.
Maybe the most famous and relevant celebrity in the Nicaraguan Literature world, is the poet Rubén Darío (1867-1916). He is considered the father of the Modernism movement. His "Obra Azul" (Blue Work, 1888) is considered to have settled the basis of this style and got its maximum expression with the work "Prosas Pofanas" (Profane Proses, 1896). The Modernism was a movement against the Romanticism. It used complex and rich vocabulary and forms. Rubén Darío was born in Metapa, called "Ciudad Darío" and 40 Km away from Mataglapa. His Christian name was Félix Rubén García Sarmiento. Few days after he was born, he was moved to León, where he lived his childhood and youth. Then after living in Chile, Argentina and Spain, he came back to die in his beloved Nicaragua and his tombe is beneath the archs of the León Cathedral.
In the middle of the twenty century appeared a new movement called La Vanguardia (The Vanguard) which has its center of activities in Granada. Its work was intended to reassert the Nicaraguan national and cultural identity. Some of the most important authors are Ernesto Cardenal, Carlos Martínez Rivas y Ernesto Mejía Sánchez. Many other authors enrich our literature nowadays.
Typical Food and Drinks
The Nicaraguan food as in all Mesoamerican peoples is based on corn. Corn has a deep cultural meaning. Quetzalcoatl, a mythical and historic celebrity who was considered the civilizer and guide of Mesoamerican peoples, put on the lips of the first woman and the first man a grain of corn that after they ate it, they became able of thinking and working. Nowadays corn is the main ingredient used in cakes, spirits, confectionery, drinks, desserts, etc. Cassava, beans and chilli pepper is also widely used as ingredient in different Nicaraguan dishes. Some of the most recognized dishes are listed below.