Brief History: (with help from this RPCV’s blogpost)
- In the 1800s, a crazy American named William Walker tried to take over the country. He died trying.
- In the early 1900s, US Marines were invited into Nicaragua to help keep the peace, with two results:
- Nicaraguans learned to love baseball.
- Agusto César Sandino became a national hero when he led an uprising against the Marines. The Sandanista National Liberation Front (FSLN) would later use Sandino as a symbol to overthrow the Somoza regime.
- For over 40 years Nicaragua was controlled by a US-backed military dictatorship.
- The FSLN overthrew the Somoza regime in 1979 and ruled until 1990, when free elections were established.
- Daniel Ortega is the current president and first Sandanista elected to office.
Most Nicaraguans speak Spanish. Some indigenous languages, as well as English Creole, are spoken throughout the Caribbean Coast.
Nicaragua is located in Central America, bordered by Honduras to the north, Costa Rica to the south, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It’s about the size of New York State and the biggest country of the Central American Republics.
Health volunteers are primarily assigned to towns of 1,000- 10,000 inhabitants.
Nicaragua is hot and tropical. The dry season is from November to April and the wet season (it’s gon’ rain!) is from May to October.
Peace Corps in Nicaragua:
Peace Corps first worked in Nicaragua from 1969-1978. After a couple revolutions and power changes, Peace Corps re-entered Nicaragua in 1991. Currently, over 175 volunteers work in four project areas: environment, health, small business development, and teaching English as a foreign language.
The health program in Nicaragua began in 1992. As a Community Health Promoter within the Maternal and Child Health Promotion Project, I was assigned to work with the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health (MINSA) at various health posts and birthing homes, and collaborated with NGOs functioning in my site.
Health Profile of Nicaragua: (taken from Volunteer Assignment book)
Nicaragua by many accounts is considered one of the poorest countries in the hemisphere, and this is reflected in its health statistics. In 2007, 16 infants died before reaching one year of age for every 1000 live births. 29 children per thousand died before they reached 5 years of age. One in five children is malnourished. One in four adolescents gets pregnant before the age of 19. This is a significant amount, considering that half the population of Nicaragua is under 18. Maternal mortality continues to be a problem in the rural areas where access to health care facilities is minimal.
These statistics are astounding. Check out the fact sheet on child mortality I put together while interning at the World Health Organization to get a better idea of where Nicaragua falls in with the rest of the world:
For more information…
- Visit Nicaragua at the Peace Corps website.
- Read Blood of Brothers by Stephen Kinzer. Buy it.
- Read La Prensa, Nicaragua’s most trusted news source (in Spanish).
- Read The Nicaraguan Dispatch Nicaraguan news in English.
- CIA World Factbook: Nicaragua.
- Nicaragua at the State Department.
- Nicaragua at the World Health Organization.