Policy & History | U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua
Honduras is a member of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization ( WTO), the Central American Parliament (PARLACEN), the Central American. Nicaragua and the United States first established diplomatic relations in while Nicaragua was joined with Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica, and El. British Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. its internal cultural homogeneity, and the consistency of its collective relation- ships with other such .
Established by the Law on Municipalities in by the Sandinista National Assembly, the first municipal governments were selected in An effort was made to decentralize the political power which had been so abused in Nicaragua for decades.
Under this system, citizens vote directly for council members in Nicaragua's nine regions; the number of members depends on the size of the city. The constitution details the responsibilities and powers of these municipal governments; they are primarily responsible for control of urban development, sanitation, environmental protection, construction and maintenance of roads, parks, and bridges, and the creation of museums and libraries.
Social Problems and Control. Poverty is the most pressing social problem in Nicaragua, and has been for decades. In the United Nations identified poverty and unemployment as the two reasons why Nicaraguans do not believe in the salve of democracy.
The report asserted that 75 percent of Nicaraguan families live in poverty, and that unemployment hovered at 60 percent. Because of the uneven distribution of wealth, as well as the economic and political upheavals of recent decades, the poor have even suffered during periods of economic growth.
In the s, 30 percent of personal income flowed to the richest 5 percent of households. During the agricultural export growth in the Pacific lowlands and central highlands, many peasants were pushed off their land and ended up as low-wage migrant laborers. The drug problem in Nicaragua was considered quite modest as ofdespite the country's position along a drug transit route from South American to the United States.
Nicaragua has a land force, a navy, and an air force. During the Sandinista regime, military service was mandatory but conscription was ended when Violeta Chamorro became president.
As the country stabilized, the armed forces were downsized. The police organization, together with the Customs Organization, is considered to be exceedingly corrupt. Favors can easily be bought for the cost of a bribe. Social Welfare and Change Programs The bulk of social welfare programs coincided with the Sandinista triumph. Declaring the year of literacy, the Sandinista government successfully launched a volunteer literacy campaign, focused on the countryside, to teach anyone over ten years old to read.
At that time, this meant aboutpeople. Young people of the more privileged class volunteered with parental permission to spend several months living and working with peasants, teaching entire families to read.
Policy & History
The youth also taught political literacy based on Paulo Freire's concept of consciousness-raising. Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Organizations Nicaragua has long been dependent on foreign aid. Principle donors have been the United States, the USSR, and Canada, all of whom have been concerned about stabilizing Nicaragua because of its geopolitical positioning.
In the s, the United States Agency for International Development USAID funded local programs aimed at improving regional infrastructure, particularly improving highway routes that would assist industrial development by improving interregional trade routes.
After the earthquake, foreign aid poured in to Nicaragua. The corrupt Somoza regime, however, managed to extort a significant amount of that aid for themselves, rather than using it to rebuild the country. InHurricane Mitch brought additional foreign aid dollars to Nicaragua to help deal with the damage from the worst national disaster in two centuries in the region.
The roles of most men and women in Nicaragua are shaped by traditional Hispanic values. Women are most respected in the role of mother, but more women have been entering the workforce since the s.
Men are typically not involved in childrearing. Relative Status of Women and Men. The status of men and women has changed since the revolution of the s. As the revolution sought to liberate poor Nicaraguans, it also managed to liberate women from their subordinate role in the Hispanic culture. Women established neighborhood committees to organize urban resistance.
Women gained the respect of male soldiers when they fought, and died, alongside them. Estimates are that women comprised about 25 percent of the Sandinista Front of the National Liberation Army. Marriage, Family, and Kinship Marriage. The minority of couples who are not Roman Catholic, outside of 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. Because of poverty and a shortage of affordable housing, A woman teaches a man how to print letters as part of a literacy program in Nicaragua; the Sandinistas helped start these programs. Like many Hispanic cultures, family relationships are highly valued and include relatives beyond the nuclear family unit.
The word compadrazago, which literally means copaternity, indicates the bond among children, parents, grandparents, and godparents. With a high fertility rate, households are large—generally comprised of six to eight persons—and include grandparents and aunts and uncles.
In rural areas, large families are regarded as a blessing: In urban settings, large families with extended kin allow for creative ways in which to house entire families, despite the space constraints of city living.
Land is the lifeblood of Nicaraguan farmers. It is a source of pride and dignity for a farmer to own the land he cultivates.
And land can be a means of escaping the poverty that plagues so many Nicaraguans. Inheritance of land in Nicaragua has been complicated by the fact that most of the land was in the hands of a few privileged families. The peasant families who farmed this land had no claims to land ownership. This changed with the Sandinista government as it awarded and distributed land to rural families. Now, however, relatives and allies of the Somoza regime who emigrated in want to reclaim the thousands of acres they owned.
Disputes over resettlements remain a controversial national issue, one that is being watched by the international community.
Loyalty to kin is strong and extended families often reside together, sharing the childrearing duties as well as any resources of the household. The notion of kin may be extended to those not related by blood or marriage with the tradition of naming godparents. Infants are raised principally by the mother with the help of extended kin. In agrarian communities, families tend to be large since more children increase the number of workers, thus raising the family's farming productivity. Infant mortality is high in Nicaragua.
This figure was reduced in from to 59 deaths per thousand, due to the Sandinista governments' increase in health clinics. Even the reduced infant mortality rate, though, is high when compared to that of neighboring countries. Child Rearing and Education. Nicaragua's education system is underfunded and inadequate; access to education improved in the s with the introduction of free education, but a large majority of the population had not completed primary schooling in Literacy was estimated at about 50 percent at the end of the Somoza regime, while a literacy campaign in the s reportedly raised the literacy rate to about 77 percent.
Inapproximately 1, Cuban teachers were teaching in Nicaragua, and 1, Nicaraguan students were attending schools in Cuba. Schooling is now free and compulsory for children from ages seven to twelve, but only 70 percent of primary age students actually attend classes. By law all schooling is in Spanish, even in the West where Spanish is not spoken in the home. The intellectual and cultural city of Leon gave birth to the country's first university. The National University of Nicaragua has approximately 7, students at campuses in Leon and Managua.
The private Jesuit Universidad Centroamericana is also located in Managua. Two separate independent institutions, Universidades Nacionales Autonomas de Nicaragua, also operate as an alternative to the leading universities. Etiquette Nicaraguans share a sense of respect and personal distance, which is apparent in language exchanges.
Nicaraguans rarely use the familiar tu form of address, even though most other Latin Americans use this casual exchange. However, the Nicaraguans routinely address one another using the informal and nonstandard pronoun vos.
Officially, Nicaragua is a secular state. Roman Catholicism arrived in Nicaragua with the Spanish conquest in the sixteenth century and remained the established faith until 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 residing in urban centers. With a paucity of priests to reach more potential members, the Roman Catholic Church is relatively inactive in rural communities. Popular religion revolves around the saints, and prayers directed to them usually make requests for the saint's intervention in an illness or particular problem.
Along the coast, blacks largely belong to the Pentecostal and evangelical churches which have been growing in the s. Virtually all Miskito and many Creoles and Sumn are Moravians. Roman Catholic priests lead mass and deliver the sacrament. In the mids there was only one priest for every 7, Roman Catholic Nicaraguans, approximately; this is a lower rate than in any of the other Latin American countries.
The Roman Catholic bishops have sometimes offered tacit approval of the political leader, while at other times they allied themselves with the opposition.
While started by foreign missionaries, most Protestant congregations are now lead by local Nicaraguan ministers who operate autonomously while maintaining a connection to their sister churches in the United States. Rituals and Holy Places. As a predominantly devout Catholic country, Christian religious holidays are honored. Maundy Thursday marks the transition through death and into life as experienced on Good Friday and Easter. Holy Saint's days are celebrated regularly.
Each city in Nicaragua has its own patron saint and some saints may be shared between towns. The people give gifts to these saints in exchange for blessings such as healing, a good crop, or a husband. Even more important than the miracles that the Nicaraguans request of the saints are the annual celebrations, known as fiestas, which are held for each saint.
These fiestas are times of great joy and everyone in the city joins in the celebration. Fiestas may begin with a parade in which the statue of the saint is carried into the city, followed by a daylong party of eating, drinking, and dancing. Death and the Afterlife. Traditionally, the spouse of the deceased prepares the body for burial. The Nicaraguan children relax at their home in Managua.
Households are generally comprised of six to eight persons, as an extended family. Roman Catholics believe in the concept of heaven, and understand death as the passage to eternal life. Medicine and Health Care During the s, health care improved as the Sandinista regime built public clinics in both urban and rural areas.
Nevertheless, the people of Nicaragua continue to suffer from malaria, poor diet, and unhealthy sanitary conditions caused by inadequate water and sewage systems.
In the early s the life expectancy of a Nicaraguan was 62 years, among the lowest in Central America. Enteritis and other diarrheal diseases were among the leading causes of death. Pneumonia, tetanus, and measles accounted for more than 10 percent of all deaths.
A high incidence of infectious diseases remains, with malaria and tuberculosis being particularly endemic. The Somoza regime tried to curb population growth by making contraceptives available through public health clinics. People sit on benches under the trees and sometimes chat with friends or strangers.
Villages have an informal central place located near a soccer field and a few stores and a school. In the afternoon, some people tie their horses to the front porch of the store, have a soft drink, and watch children play ball. Food and Economy Food in Daily Life. Beans and corn tortillas are the mainstays of the diet. The beans are usually fried, and the tortillas are small, thick, and usually handmade; ideally, they are eaten warm. A farm worker's lunch may be little more than a large stack of tortillas, a few spoonfuls of beans, and some salt.
The ideal meal includes fried plantains, white cheese, rice, fried meat, a kind of thickened semisweet cream called mantequillaa scrambled egg, a cabbage and tomato salad or a slice of avocado, and a cup of sweet coffee or a bottled soft drink. These meals are served in restaurants and homes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner year-round. Plantains and manioc are important foods in much of the country, especially the north and the Mosquitia. Diners often have a porch or a door open to the street.
Dogs, cats, and chickens wander between the tables, and some people toss them bones and other scraps. There are Chinese restaurants owned by recent immigrants.
In the early s, North American fast-food restaurants became popular. Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Special and holiday foods are an improved version of the typical meal but feature more meat and perhaps more of an emphasis on cream and fried plantains. Christmas food includes torrejasa white bread soaked in hot syrup, and nacatamales, which are like the Mexican tamales, but are larger and moister with a more gelatinous dough and are wrapped in banana leaves.
Fifty-four percent of economically active people work in agriculture. Most are smallholder farmers who call themselves campesinos. Because the internal food market is irregular, campesinos try to grow their own maize cornbeans, and plantains. Once they have achieved that goal, they raise a cash crop.
Depending on whether they live in a valley, the mountains, or along the coast and on whether they live near a good road, a campesino household may raise a cash crop of coffee, cattle, cabbage, tomatoes, citrus fruit, maize, beans, or other vegetables. Long-term donations of wheat from the United States have kept food prices low but have provided a disincentive for grain farmers. Some large-scale commercial farmers produce melons, beef, coffee, and shrimp for export.
Land Tenure and Property. Land may be private, communal, cooperative, or national. Private land includes buildings and most of the agricultural and grazing land and some forested land. Communal land usually consists of the forest or rough pasture traditionally used by a rural community.
Forest trees are owned by the government even if an individual owns the land. Many smallholders and rural communities do not have clear title to or ownership papers for their land even though their families have worked it for generations. Cooperatives were formed in the mids to manage land taken from large landowners under agrarian reform policies. Much of this land is of good quality, and cooperatives can be several hundred acres in size.
Most of the members or their parents once worked on large estates that were expropriated, usually by the workers and occasionally with some violence, and often suffered some repression while doing so. These farms are still owned cooperatively, although in almost all cases the farmers found it too difficult to work them collectively, and each household has been assigned land to work on its own within the cooperative's holdings. By62, beneficiaries of agrarian reform about 5 percent of the nation, or 10 percent of the rural people heldacres of landhectares, or over 4 percent of the nation's farmland.
In the s and s, wealthy people, especially in the south, were able to hire lawyers to file the paperwork for this land and take it from the traditional owners.
The new owners produced export agricultural products, and the former owners were forced to become rural laborers and urban migrants or to colonize the tropical forests in eastern Honduras. As late as the s there was still national land owned but not managed by the state.
Anyone who cleared and fenced the land could lay claim to it. Some colonists carved out farms of fifty acres or more, especially in the eastern forests.
By the late s, environmentalists and indigenous people's advocates became alarmed that colonization from the south and the interior would eliminate much of the rain forest and threaten the Tawahka and Miskito peoples. Much of the remaining national land has been designated as national parks, wilderness areas, and reserves for the native peoples.
In the s, Koreans, Americans, and other foreign investors opened huge clothing factories in special industrial parks near the large cities.
These maquilas employ thousands of people, especially young women. The clothing they produce is exported. Honduras now produces many factory foods oils, margarine, soft-drinks, beersoap, paper, and other items of everyday use.
Exports include coffee, beef, bananas, melons, shrimp, pineapple, palm oil, timber, and clothing. Cotton is now hardly grown, having been replaced by melon and shrimp farms in southern Honduras.
Petroleum, machinery, tools, and more complicated manufactured goods are imported. Men do much of the work on small farms. Tortilla making is done by women and takes hours every day, especially if the maize has to be boiled, ground usually in a metal, hand-cranked grinderslapped out, and toasted by hand, and if the family is large and eats little else. Campesino children begin playing in the fields with their parents, and between the ages of about six and twelve, this play evolves into work.
Children specialize in scaring birds from cornfields with slingshots, fetching water, and carrying a hot lunch from home to their fathers and brothers in the field.
Some villagers have specialties in addition to farming, including shopkeeping, buying agricultural products, and shoeing horses. In the cities, job specialization is much like that of other countries, with the exception that many people learn industrial trades mechanics, baking, shoe repair, etc.
Social Stratification Classes and Castes. Large landholdings and, to a lesser extent, successful businesses generate income for most of the very wealthy. Some of these people, In cities such as Tegucigalpa, extended families may share the same house until the younger couple can afford their own home.
These people import new cars and take foreign vacations. Educated, professional people and the owners of mid size businesses make up a group with a lifestyle similar to that of the United States middle class. However, some professionals earn only a few hundred dollars a month. They may work several jobs and tend to have old cars and small houses that are often decorated with much care.
Urban workers are often migrants from the countryside or the children of migrants. They tend to live in homes they have built for themselves, gradually improving them over the years. They tend to travel by bus. Campesinos may earn only a few hundred dollars a year, but their lifestyle may be more comfortable than their earnings suggest.
They often own land, have horses to ride, and may have a comfortable, if rudimentary home of wood or adobe, often with a large, shady porch. If a household has a few acres of land and if the adults are healthy, these people usually have enough to feed their families.
Symbols of Social Stratification. As in many countries, wealthier men sometimes wear large gold chains around their necks. Urban professionals and workers dress somewhat like their counterparts in northern countries.
Rural people buy used clothing and repair each garment many times. These men often wear rubber boots, and the women wear beach sandals. In the late s and early s, many men carried pistols, usually poked barrel-first into the tops of their trousers. By this custom had become somewhat less common. Many campesinos, commercial farmers, and agricultural merchants carried guns at that time.
There is a subtle difference in accent among the different classes. The highest-status people pronounce words more or less as in standard Spanish, and working-class pronunciation uses a few systematic and noticeable modifications.
The most important political offices are the national president, members of congress diputados and city mayors. In addition to the executive branch a president and a cabinet of ministers and a unicameral congress, there is a supreme court. Leadership and Political Officials.
Honduras still has the two political parties that emerged in the nineteenth century: The Liberales originally were linked to the business sector, and the Nacionalistas with the wealthy rural landowners, but this difference is fading. Both parties are pro—United States, and pro-business. There is little ideological difference between them. Each is associated with a color red for Liberals and blue for Nationalistsand the Nationalists have a nickname los cachurecos which comes from the word cacho, or "horn," and refers to the cow horn trumpet originally used to call people to meetings.
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People tend to belong to the same party as their parents. Working on political campaigns is an important way of advancing in a party. The party that wins the national elections fires civil servants from the outgoing party and replaces them with its own members. This tends to lower the effectiveness of the government bureaucracy because people are rewarded not for fulfilling their formal job descriptions but for being loyal party members and for campaigning actively driving around displaying the party flag, painting signs, and distributing leaflets.
Political officials are treated with respect and greeted with a firm handshake, and people try not to take up too much of their time. Members of congress have criminal immunity and can literally get away with murder. Social Problems and Control. Until the s, civilians were policed by a branch of the army, but this force has been replaced by a civil police force. Most crime tends to be economically motivated. In cities, people do not leave their homes unattended for fear of having the house broken into and robbed of everything, including light bulbs and toilet paper.
Many families always leave at least one person home. Revenge killings and blood feuds are common in some parts of the country, especially in the department of Olancho. Police are conspicuous in the cities. Small towns have small police stations. Police officers do not walk a beat in the small towns but wait for people to come to the station and report problems.Nicaragua - Interesting Facts, Flag, Capital, Food, Lake, Culture
In villages there is a local person called the regidorappointed by the government, who reports murders and major crimes to the police or mayor of a nearby town. Hondurans discuss their court system with great disdain. People who cannot afford lawyers may be held in the penitentiary for over ten years without a trial.
People who can afford good lawyers spend little time in jail regardless of the crimes they have committed. Until after the s, crimes committed by members of the armed forces were dismissed out of hand. Even corporals could murder citizens and Rural children help with farm chores in addition to their school work.
Insome military men, including colonels, raped and murdered a university student. Her school and family, the press, and the United States embassy exerted pressure until two men were sent to prison.
This event was the start of a movement to modernize and improve the court system. The Cold War was difficult for Honduras. In the past thirty years, the military has gone through three phases.
The military government of the s was populist and promoted land reform and tried to control the banana companies. It began in the late s, when U. This was coupled with direct U. A central component of this ruling class was and remains the Honduran military.
The Reagan era A U. At that time, U.
The Reagan years also saw the construction of numerous joint Honduran-U. Such moves greatly strengthened the militarization of Honduran society. In turn, political repression rose. The Reagan administration also played a big role in restructuring the Honduran economy. It did so by strongly pushing for internal economic reforms, with a focus on exporting manufactured goods. It also helped deregulate and destabilize the global coffee trade, upon which Honduras heavily depended. These changes made Honduras more amenable to the interests of global capital.