The Culture and Customs of Nicaragua

Handmade masks for sale at a market in Nicaragua.
Handmade masks for sale at a market in Nicaragua.

The way of life and behaviors of the people in Nicaragua help determine the culture of the nation. The country, which is located in Central America, has unique qualities when it comes to things like language, religion, music, art, and literature. Like most cultures around the globe, religion has played a crucial role in shaping and determining the way of life for citizens of Nicaragua. The variety of cultures in the nation have been influenced by different heritages from previous times, especially during the period of colonial Spanish rule.


The modern Nicaraguan music style is a blend of several other styles, namely indigenous, European, and Spanish styles. The musical instruments include the likes of the common marimba and others that are found throughout Central America. The Caribbean coast of the nation has been influenced by African music styles together with the native styles as well. The most common form of dance is known as the “palo de mayo,” which is a particularly loud and energetic style. The North and Central regions mostly have evidence of European heritage with dances such as the “mazurcas” being popular. The Masaya and Pacific regions have also been equally influenced.


Religion is a crucial component of the Nicaraguan culture. In fact, due to its importance, it has been included in the constitution. Religions have authorities that are responsible for providing guidance and advice on important matters of the state. In the constitution, it has been clearly stated that there is religious freedom and tolerance for everyone. Religious celebrations are common in the country and often characterized by loudness, joy, dancing, large crowds, traditional interpretations and plenty of music. Each city has a religious leader or a saint who is also called the “Santo Patrono”. People have celebrations in honor of the saint who blesses them in exchange for gifts and presents.


The two most common staple foods in Nicaragua are corn and beans. Beans, in particular, are eaten almost every day by most families because meat is not easily obtained. Other common foods include the likes of tortillas, tamales, and the yucca root. Mangos and plantains are the most common fruits. The most common non-alcoholic beverage in Nicaragua is coffee, which is consumed throughout the day. The national drink is known as pinol and it is made out of water and flour. Other drinks include tiste (cacao and ground tortillas) and alcohol.


A large percentage of the population, about 90%, speak Spanish or Nicaraguan Spanish (also known as Nicañol). In general, Creole English and English are languages that are mostly spoken on the Caribbean coast. Other indigenous languages on the coast include Sumo, the Garifuna language, and others.

Ethnic groups such as the Chinese and Palestinian Nicaraguans have preserved their minority ancestral languages to some extent. These languages are spoken alongside Spanish and/or English and they include Chinese, Arabic, Italian, German, and others. There are about three languages which are currently extinct.


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