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Republic and Diocese of Nicaragua
The diocese, suffragan of Guatemala, is coextensive with the Central American Republic of Nicaragua. This republic (see CHILE, MAP OF SOUTH AMERICA), lying between Honduras and Costa Rica, the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, has an area of 49,200 square miles and a population of about 600,000 inhabitants. The great mass of the inhabitants are either aborigines, or negroes, or of mixed blood, those of pure European descent not exceeding 1500 in number. The legislative authority is vested in a single chamber of thirty-six members, elected for six years; the executive, in a president, whose term of office is also six years, exercising his functions through a cabinet of nine responsible ministers. The country is traversed by a deep depression, running parallel to the Pacific coast, within which are a chain of volcanoes (among them, Monotombo, 7000 feet) and the great lakes, Managua and Nicaragua (or Cocibolga). From the latter (a body of water 92 miles long and, at its widest, 40 miles wide) the country takes its name, derived from Nicarao, the name of the aboriginal chief who held sway in the regions round about Lake Cocibolga when the Spaniards, under Dávila, first explored the country, in 1522. From that time, or soon after, until 1822 Nicaragua was a Spanish possession, forming part of the Province of Guatemala. From 1822 until 1839 it was one of the five states constituting the Central American Federation; from 1840 until the present time (1911) it has been an independent republic, with its capital at Managua (pop., about 35,000). The aborigines of the Mosquito Coast, a swampy tract extending along the Nicaraguan shores of the Caribbean, were nominally under British protection until 1860, when, by the Treaty of Managua, this protectorate was ceded by Great Britain to the republic; in 1905, another treaty recognized the absolute sovereignty of Nicaragua over what had been, until then, known as the Mosquito Reservation. Since the time of its acquiring political independence, Nicaragua has been in almost continuous turmoil. Commercially, the country is very poorly developed; its chief exports are coffee, cattle, and mahogany; a certain amount of gold has been mined of recent years, and the nascent rubber industry is regarded as promising.
The Diocese of Nicaragua was canonically erected in 1534 (according to other authorities, 1531), with Diego Alvarez for its first bishop. It appears to have been at first a suffragan of Mexico, though some authorities have assigned it to the ecclesiastical Province of Lima, but in the eighteenth century Benedict XIV made it a suffragan of Guatemala. The episcopal residence is at Léon, where there is a fine cathedral. A concordat between the Holy See and the Republic of Nicaragua was concluded in 1861, and the Catholic is still recognized as the state religion, though Church and State are now separated, and freedom is constitutionally guaranteed to all forms of religious worship. After 1894 the Zelaya Government entered upon a course of anti-Catholic legislation which provoked a protest from Bishop Francisco Ulloa y Larrios, and the bishop was banished to Panama. Upon the death of this prelate, in 1908, his coadjutor bishop, Simeone Pereira, succeeded him. The returns for 1910 give the Diocese of Nicaragua 42 parishes, with 45 priests, a seminary, 2 colleges, and 2 hospitals.
GAMEZ, Archivo Histórico de la Republica de Nicaragua (Managua, 1896); SQUIER, Nicaragua (London, 1852); BELT, The Naturalist in Nicaragua (London, 1873); The Statesman's Year Book (London, 1910).