National Geographic : 1927 Mar
NICARAGUA, LARGEST OF CENTRAL AMERICAN REPUBLICS W ITH a wealth of natural re sources which compares favor ably with that of any of her sister Latin-American countries, Nicara gua, the largest State of Central America, only awaits an era of peace to come into her own. In an area equal to that of New York State is sparsely scattered a population comparable to that of the city of Pitts burgh. Three-fourths of the inhabitants live in the mountainous and upland west ern half of the country. A CHRONICLE OF CONTINUOUS SUFFERING The history of the republic is a chron icle of the sufferings of the masses, prin cipally of mixed Spanish and Indian de scent, under kaleidoscopic changes of gov ernment. It is recorded that in one period of 16 years 396 persons in succession exercised supreme power - an average period of control of hardly more than two weeks per ruler! Among the most dramatic incidents of Nicaragua's past was the William Walker episode, which in a measure paralleled the Maximilian tragedy in Mexico. During five years of his tempestuous career this young American adventurer became in turn "liberator," virtual dictator, presi dent, and a refugee from Nicaragua. Twice arrested and deported by United States forces, he was finally made a pris oner by an officer of the British navy and was surrendered to Honduran authorities, who tried and condemned him to be shot. He was executed September 12, 186o. Twice has Nicaragua felt the punitive force of European powers-in 1875, when Germany blockaded the republic's prin cipal ports to force the payment of an in demnity of $30,000 for an alleged insult to a German consul, and in 1895, when Great Britain collected $15,ooo damages for the arrest and expulsion of one of its consular officers at Bluefields, who had been charged by Nicaragua with con spiracy against the government. The United States has repeatedly en deavored to bring peace out of the Nica raguan chaos, and United States marines have been stationed in the republic inter- mittently for many years; but they were withdrawn in 1925, after thirteen years of continuous residence. When Nicaragua's political parties eventually permit, or are coerced into permitting, the populace to settle down to cultivating the country's rich banana lands, her coffee plantations, her cacao groves, and her cotton fields, there is no reason why this largest of the Central American republics should not become one of the most prosperous. The agricultural wealth of Nicaragua constitutes only a part of her natural re sources, for there is a magnificent growth of mahogany and of other cabinet woods in her forests, and her hills are rich in gold and silver, while on the upland plains there is excellent pasturage for thousands of cattle. PEACE AND TRANSPORTATION ARE TIIE REPUBLIC'S GREAT NEEDS Next to peace, Nicaragua's greatest needs are improved means of transpor tation and communication. At present the national railway system consists of a single line, some 150 miles long, running from the principal Pacific Coast port of Corinto, via Leon, to the capital city. Managua, and on to Granada and Diri amba. A few private lines and a 3-mile steam tramway swell the republic's total railway mileage to 172 miles! In wet weather most of the roads of the country are traversible only by oxcarts, but some 300 miles of surfaced highways have been completed or are under construction. The most striking physical features of Nicaragua are her chain of volcanoes lying parallel to the Pacific seaboard (see illus trations, page 378), and her two great lakes, Managua and Nicaragua, the latter being the largest sheet of fresh water in the Americas south of Lake Michigan and north of Lake Titicaca in the highlands of Bolivia and Peru. Nicaragua enjoys the advantage of hav ing almost at her door an eager customer for all her agricultural products. The United States buys two-thirds of all the republic's exports, and in return the latter purchases three-fourths of her imports from us.