Traditions and customs of Nicaragua

What traditions and customs are there in Nicaragua?

We will know the customs and traditions of Nicaragua.


Food in daily life

Nicaragua has a local cuisine that shares some flavors and ingredients with Mexican food, while also bearing a resemblance to the cuisines of Honduras and Guatemala. Corn and beans are the staples of the diet, and garlic and onions flavor most dishes.

Like other Central Americans, Nicaraguans consume corn tortillas with most meals. The Nicaraguan version of the tortilla is large, thin, and made from white corn. It is used as an edible utensil to wrap meat and beans.

Beans are consumed daily as a necessary source of protein in a country where most people cannot afford to eat meat on a regular basis. Nicaraguans like a small red bean that is usually eaten fried in a dish called gallo pinto, or “spotted rooster.” This is primarily a breakfast dish.

Nicaraguans also enjoy tamales, but their version – called nacatamal – has some unique characteristics. The entire meal of corn, rice, tomatoes, chili, potatoes, yucca, and often a piece of meat, is wrapped in a leaf derived from a banana-like plant.

Cassava root is a vegetable that is consumed for its vitamins; in Spanish it is called vigoron for its high percentage of nutrients. Cassava root is often served with pork rind and vegetables and is sold at roadside stalls. Also, fruits such as mangoes and bananas are popular in Nicaragua.

The favorite non-alcoholic drink is coffee. Nicaraguans drink hot coffee with milk for breakfast and black coffee with sugar the rest of the day. Pinol, the national drink, is also non-alcoholic and is made from corn flour with water.

Tiste, similar to pinol, is a drink made from ground tortillas and cocoa that can be served fresh or at room temperature. Chichi, an Indian wine made from fermented corn, is also popular. Beer is consumed as a typical light alcoholic beverage, while rum is the hard liquor of choice.

Food customs on ceremonial occasions

At celebratory meals, Nicaraguans eat meat, either grilled steak or grilled loin.


The minority of non-Roman Catholic couples, outside the upper and middle classes, formalize their marriages through ceremonies officiated by another church or the state.

Many common law unions exist, but Roman Catholics abide by the church’s emphasis on marriage. Due to poverty and a shortage of affordable housing, newly married couples may live with only one set of parents.


Nicaraguans share a sense of respect and personal distance, which manifests itself in linguistic exchanges. Nicaraguans rarely use the familiar form of your address, even though most other Latin Americans use this casual exchange. However, Nicaraguans routinely address one another using the informal and non-standard pronoun vos.


Religious beliefs

Officially, Nicaragua is a secular state. Roman Catholicism came to Nicaragua with the Spanish conquest in the 16th century and remained the established faith until 1939. Most Nicaraguans are Roman Catholic, but many blacks along the coast belong to Protestant denominations.

Practicing Roman Catholics, those who attend Mass and receive the sacrament, tend to be women and members of the upper and middle classes who reside in urban centers. With a shortage of priests to reach more potential members, the Roman Catholic Church is relatively inactive in rural communities.

Popular religion revolves around saints, and prayers addressed to them often request the saint’s intervention in a particular illness or problem.

Along the coast, blacks largely belong to the Pentecostal and evangelical churches that have been growing in the 1990s. The largest of the Protestant congregations is the Moravian Church and the Nicaraguan Baptist Convention. Virtually all Miskitos and many Creoles and Suma are Moravians.

Other denominations in the West include churches established by missionaries from the United States, such as the Assemblies of God, the Episcopal Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Seventh-day Adventists.

Religious professionals

Roman Catholic priests lead the mass and deliver the sacrament. In the mid-1980s, there was only one priest for every 7,000 Roman Catholic Nicaraguans, approximately; this is a lower rate than in any of the other Latin American countries.

Catholic bishops have sometimes offered the tacit approval of the political leader, while at other times allied themselves with the opposition. Although started by foreign missionaries, most Protestant congregations are now led by local Nicaraguan ministers who operate autonomously while maintaining a connection to their sister churches in the United States.

Rituals and sacred places

As a predominantly Catholic country, Christian religious holidays are respected. Nicaraguans celebrate Holy Wednesday in March, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. Holy Thursday marks the transition through death and into life as experienced on Good Friday and Easter.

In December, Catholics honor the Immaculate Conception and Christmas. Saints’ days are celebrated regularly. Each city in Nicaragua has its own patron saint and some saints may be shared between towns.

People give gifts to these saints in exchange for blessings such as healing, a good harvest, or a husband. Even more important than the miracles Nicaraguans ask of the saints are the annual celebrations, known as fiestas, held for each saint.

These holidays are times of great joy and everyone in the city joins in the celebration. Festivities may begin with a parade in which the statue of the saint is carried into town, followed by a day-long feast of eating, drinking and dancing.

Death and the afterlife

Traditionally, the spouse of the deceased prepares the body for burial. The body is placed in the house to be viewed, and anyone in the village can enter to view the body. Roman Catholics believe in the concept of heaven, understanding death as the passage to eternal life.

Secular celebrations

Nicaraguans celebrate New Year’s Day on January 1, Liberation Day on July 18, and Independence Day on September 15. The day before Independence Day, September 14, Nicaraguans commemorate the 1856 Battle of San Jacinto, in which Nicaraguans defeated William Walker and his American mercenaries.

Santo Domingo, the patron saint of Managua, is celebrated in a festival that takes place from August 1 to 10. This festival combines church ceremonies with horse races, bullfights, cockfights and a lively carnival.

The arts and humanities

Since the early 1980s, the Ministry of Culture has worked to preserve folk art and train a new generation of artisans so that traditional crafts are not lost.


Until the 1980s, when the Sandinistas launched their literacy campaign, half of the Nicaraguan population was functionally illiterate. Although few Nicaraguan writers have received international recognition, the poet Rubén Darío is the notable exception.

Darío is the pseudonym of Félix Rubén García Sarmiento, whose modernist poetry started a new movement in Nicaraguan literature. A 19th-century poet, Darío lived from 1867 to 1916 and produced “Azul…”.

Darío lived as an exile outside his homeland, but he visited León for long periods and served as a diplomat representing Nicaragua. Dario’s birthplace has been renamed in his honor and is preserved as a national shrine. Another author, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, published a volume of short stories and two novels before his assassination in 1978.

Graphic arts

The Nicaraguan tradition of producing utilitarian and decorative pottery and earthenware continues. Local artisan pottery still employs the shapes and motifs found on pre-Columbian pieces. Other local crafts include silverware, woodcarving, embroidery, and sculpture. Gold filigree is practiced on the Atlantic coast.

Performing arts

Folkloric dance is one of Nicaragua’s most enduring pre-colonial art forms. Traditional dances are performed at festivals and fiestas, and children study this aspect of their heritage in after-school programs.

Similar to folk dances in Mexico and Guatemala, the Nicaraguan dance tradition includes the flying stick, in which a performer is tied to a rope coiled around a pole and then uncoiled, swinging further into the air accompanied by the rhythm of percussion instruments.

The marimba, a kind of xylophone, is also part of Nicaragua’s rich musical tradition. The city of Masaga is the main performing arts center in the country.

Dances such as Las Inditas, Los Diabilitos and Las Negras involve masked characters. Another traditional dance theme is the representation of the Spanish Conquest, parodying the conquerors with pink masks and grotesque facial features. The farce dance portrays the Spanish and their conquest as clumsy, but inevitably triumphant.

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