Statistically, Nicaragua is considered the poorest Spanish-speaking country in the world (second overall to Haiti in our hemisphere). Yet even the statistics do not reveal the depth of pain and suffering that the people of Nicaragua have experienced over the last 31 years! Nicaragua is a small country (about the size of Ohio) in the heart of Central-America. It is called the "land of lakes and volcanoes." The eleven volcanoes and two gigantic lakes provide an abundance of natural beauty. The Nicaraguan people are warm and caring despite the fact that they have suffered much in recent years. Managua is the country’s capital, with a population of just over one million. The climate is hot and tropical. During the rainy season (May to November), it rains most afternoons for short periods. Beautiful beaches along the Pacific coast are an hour’s drive from Managua. Northern Nicaragua is mountainous and contains the largest intact rain forest in Central-America. The Atlantic coast is virtually inaccessible from the capital, except by air and is home to several ethnic and indigenous groups. In the midst of the war, tragedy and poverty, God’s people continue to proclaim the Good News. Each week there are signs of hope, reconstruction and reconciliation. It is an exciting time to be in Nicaragua and there is openness to the Gospel message.
In 1972, an earthquake destroyed 90% of the downtown area, killing hundreds of people and leaving thousands homeless. As the country attempted to recover, opposition arose to the harsh Somozan dictatorship. The people overthrew Somoza through a popular revolution in 1979. The Sandinista party, under Daniel Ortega, monopolized power and led the country toward a socialistic economic and political system. Several opposition groups went into exile and began a fierce civil war. The US backed one group commonly called the contras and later imposed a complete economic embargo on Nicaragua. The Sandinistas were forced to hold elections in 1990 and were defeated by a coalition party led by Violeta Chamorro. The 1996 election provided the first case in the history of the country where one democratically elected president took over from another; they have since had another peaceful democratic transition of power (2001), but Nicaragua is still much divided politically.