The most outstanding characteristic about the Nicaraguan people is their kindness, which you will notice almost immediately because they are always helpful and will offer you their friendship without hesitation.
On arriving in Nicaragua, you will notice that people here ask a lot of questions, which is one of the ways we get to know one another. Unless you have experienced this kind of direct questioning before, you may perceive it as a lack of respect, unsuitable conduct, or sheer boldness. But you must understand that for a Nicaraguan, it is quite common and is the natural way of making social contact.
Questions like the following will be asked of you many times: What is your name? Where are you from? How old are you? Are you married? How many kids do you have? What are you doing in Nicaragua? How long will you be in Nicaragua?, etc.
If you speak Spanish, you will immediately note that in Nicaragua we use “vos” instead of “tu.” “Vos” is used more between people who already know each other, between young people, and between those who have established intimacy. Some people use “usted” to be more formal or to show respect.
Nicaraguan men and women are generally very open during social interaction. However, you will observe a big difference in those people living in rural areas, who are generally more closed, less expressive, and more introverted.
There are typical Nicaraguan behaviors and characteristics that can cause culture shock upon your return, especially if you are here for a prolonged period of time. Of course, this depends on the kinds of social interactions that you have.
Throwing garbage in the streets or any other place. You will notice right away that the streets are generally dirty and that it is very common that passers-by and bus passengers throw garbage out their vehicle windows.
Nicaragua’s culture is also very patriarchal, even though there has been a struggle for women’s rights for many years. You will quickly notice the “machismo” conduct of Nicaraguan men towards women in the streets. Rude gestures and abusive verbal and physical contact are acceptable behavior in our culture.
If you have an appointment with a Nicaraguan, do not worry if he or she is late. Punctuality is not a Nicaraguan trait.
Nicaraguans call all foreigners or Nicaraguans with light skin or European traits “cheles.” This word does not have a completely negative connotation. An important thing to remember is that for many Nicaraguans every person who seems foreign is from the United States. To say “chele” is simply a culturally learned habit.
It is also common that Nicaraguans call all foreigners “gringos,” even though the term has negative origins. It does not have the same connotation today; it is simply a name that refers to foreigners.
Pablo Antonio Cuadra, who has studied Nicaraguan language and culture, defined with some humor twelve characteristics that typify Nicaraguans, including: expressive, informal, irresponsible, always late, gossipy, exaggerators, mythical, and family-oriented.Top
Geographically Nicaragua is divided into three regions, the Pacific, the Atlantic, and the Central Zones. These divisions influence different cultural expressions. The traditional folkloric dances of each region are well-known. Each department of the country has its own dances, myths, and legends. The dances generally convey stories and the dancers’ clothing is very elaborate with details specific to each region. Top
The music of the Pacific Zone is unmistakable. In the department of Masaya, the marimba accompanies the representative folkloric dances, such as those of “The Güegüense or the Macho Raton,” that on many occassions are accompanied by guitars and maracas.
In the Northern Zone, mostly in Matagalpa, Esteli, and Jinotega, the people dance to the sound of the guitar, mandolins, small guitars, and accordians, instruments that play in the most famous polkas, mazurkas, and jamaquellos.
“Chiceros” are very popular Nicaraguan folklore music groups that play at important events. The instruments that give the music its distinctive sound are the drums, big bass drum, and the symbols.
The Atlantic Coast is characterized by its own type of afro-caribbean music, called the “Palo de Mayo,” (May Pole) which has a very intense rhythm and inspires erotic dance.
Several musical pieces that are representative of Nicaragua are the “Mora Limpia,” “Alforja Campesina,” “Son Tus Perjumenes Mujer,” and “El Nandaimeño.”
Among the most talented Nicaraguan singers are the brothers Carlos and Luis Enrique Mejia Godoy. Listening to their songs is a great way to learn popular Nicaraguan phrases, customs and traditions, and historic events.
Other outstanding composers and singers are Camilo Zapata, Otto de la Rocha, Norma Helena Gadea, Salvador y Katia Cardenal, Philip Montalván, Erwin Krüger, José de la Cruz Mena, and Jorge Isaac Carvallo. Top
Dance is also a very important aspect of Nicaraguan culture and reflects in great measure the customs of the Mestizo people.
Many cities have their own typical dances. For example, in Massaya they dance the “Son Nica,” which is played on the guitar and the marimba; in Carazo, they dance the “Toro Guaco” and the “El Güegüense or Macho Ratón”; in Managua, they dance the “Baile de la Vaca,” mainly during the festival of the patron saint Domingo; in the north, they dance the polka, influenced by European immigrants; and on the Caribbean side, they dance the sensual “Palo de Mayo” (May Pole).
Among the most famous dances are the “Baile de Las Negras,” the “Baile de Las Inditas,” “El Viejo y La Vieja,” “El Mate Amargo,” El Torovenado,” and the “El Güegüense or Macho Ratón.”Top
Nicaragua has a history with many ups and downs, and this turbulence has influenced the arts. Artisan products abound in specific zones. In the archipelago of Solentiname in Lake Nicaragua, they have created their own style called “primitivista” in the bosom of the communities founded by the poet and political critic Ernesto Cardenal.
Although you can find other craftwork in many areas of the country, the city with the most excellent artisan crafts is Masaya (the city of flowers).
Artisan pieces of northern Nicaragua have their own styles. The black ceramics of Matagalpa and Jinotega, for instance, are easily recognizable because this style exists in only three Central American countries. In Esteli, you can find clay pottery molded into different forms and figures.
One of the great figures in Nicaraguan poetry is Ruben Dario, who brought many innovations to the poetic style. He is called the “Father of Modernism,” a movement of great importance in Latin America in the latter years of the 19th Century.
Other great contributions to Nicaraguan poetry were made during the Post-Modern movement, by Leon poets Azarías H. Pallais, Alfonso Cortés, and Salomón de la Selva. Following the Post-Modern movement, there was a surge in Granada called the “Movement of the Vanguard” led by José Coronel Urtecho, Pablo Antonio Cuadra, Manolo Cuadra, and Joaquín Pasos.
Nicaragua has many outstanding poets, like Daisy Zamora, Michele Najlis, Vidaluz Meneses, Julio Valle Castillo, Claribel Alegría, Julio Cabrales, and the renowned poet, writer, and sculptor Ernesto Cardenal. Top
Nicaragua boasts a literary work regarded as the “Masterpiece of Oral Patrimony and Immaterial of Humanity” called “El Güegüense or Macho Ratón,” which reflects, in the manner of musical theatrical works, a satire by the indigenous people of the conquering Spaniard.
Among the Nicaraguan novelists most well-known in modern Latin American literature are Sergio Ramírez who wrote “Divine Punishment,” “Margarita, How Beautiful the Sea,” and “Adiós Muchachos, A Remembrance of the Sandanistan Revolution,” and the writer and poet Gioconda Belli who has written “The Woman Inhabited,” “The Country Under My Skin,” and the “The Scroll of Seduction”Top
There exists a wide variety of Nicaraguan dishes for all tastes.
Nicaraguans are popularly called “Sons and Daughters of the Corn” because corn forms the base of all of our traditional meals.
Some of the Nicaraguan dishes and drinks that you can enjoy are:
* Nacatamal -- Nicaraguan tamale—meat, cornmeal, potatoes, rice, tomatoes, and onions
* Tamal Dulce -- tamale with only corn, nothing else
* Tamal Relleno -- tamale colored by wood ash and stuffed with ground beans
* Baho -- yucca, green and ripe plaintains, and beef eaten with cabbage salad
* Güirila -- thick white corn tortilla filled with crumbled white cheese
* Atol de elote -- thick warm corn drink
* Elote asado y cocido -- corn on the cob cooked or boiled
* Indio Viejo -- small, long strings of breaded meat
* Guiso de Chilote -- premature corn cob cooked with cornmeal
* Rosquillas -- doughnuts
* Tortillas -- corn tortillas
* Chicha fuerte -- fermented corn drink
* Chicha tierna -- refreshing bright-pink corn drink
* Pinolillo --drink of ground toasted corn and cacao
* Pinol -- drink of toasted corn
* Cususa -- indigenous alcoholic beverage made from corn
* Quesillo -- thick corn tortilla wrapped around soft cheese, pickled onions, and a sauce of sour cream or liquid cheese and vinegar
* Gallo Pinto is the most common Nicaraguan dish. It is a combination of rice and beans fried together, normally served at breakfast and at dinner.
Because Nicaragua has a tropical climate, there is a huge variety of fruits and vegetables throughout the year. The vegetables are normally very fresh and can be found in all of the markets and supermarkets in the country.
* The famous “fritangas” are characterized by vendors selling fried food and grilled meats. They are the most popular in the cities and the dishes that they sell are affordable for the majority of the public.
The Atlantic Coast has different typical food dishes than the Pacific Coast. The coconut is the fundamental base of most coastal dishes. The principal dishes of the Bluefields are coconut bread, breadfruit, the Rondón, gallo pinto with coconut, the Patí, cakes of quequisque, yucca, bananas, “Jorny Cake,” a special type of cookie eaten with ginger tea, popular during the May Pole festivals.
The majority of eateries are clean, but you should always take care, as the food can become contaminated from sitting out and you can easily get sick. Top