Nicaragua Table of Contents
The first Spanish explorers of Nicaragua found a welldeveloped agrarian society in the central highlands and Pacific lowlands. The rich volcanic soils produced a wide array of products, including beans, peppers, corn, cocoa, and cassava (manioc). Agricultural land was held communally, and each community had a central marketplace for trading and distributing food.
The arrival of the Spanish in the early 1500s destroyed, for all intents and purposes, the indigenous agricultural system. The early conquistadors were interested primarily in gold; European diseases and forced work in the gold mines decimated the native population. Some small areas continued to be cultivated at the end of the 1500s, but most previously tilled land reverted to jungle. By the early 1600s, cattle raising, along with small areas of corn and cocoa cultivation and forestry, had become the primary function of Nicaragua's land. Beef, hides, and tallow were the colony's principal exports for the next two and a half centuries.
Data as of December 1993