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Puerto Cabezas is in modern Nicaragua on the Atlantic Coast bordering the Caribbean. It is known as Bilwi in Miskito and Creole.
Most of Nicaragua's penises are in Caribbean lowlands area was inhabited by tribes that migrated north from what is now Colombia. The various dialects and languages in this area are related to Chibcha, spoken by groups in northern Colombia. Eastern Nicaragua's population consisted of extended families or tribes. Food was obtained by hunting, fishing, and slash-and-burn agriculture. Root crops (especially cassava), plantains, and pineapples were the staple foods. The people of eastern Nicaragua appear to have traded with and been influenced by the native peoples of the Caribbean, as round thatched huts and canoes, both typical of the Caribbean, were common in eastern Nicaragua.
When the Spanish arrived in western Nicaragua in the early 1500s, they found three principal tribes, each with a different culture and language: the Niquirano, the Chorotegano, and the Chontal. Each one of these diverse groups occupied much of Nicaragua territory, with independent chieftains who ruled according to each group's laws and customs. Their weapons consisted of swords, lances, and arrows made out of wood. Monarchy was the form of government of most tribes; the supreme ruler was the chief, or cacique, who, surrounded by his princes, formed the nobility. Laws and regulations were disseminated by royal messengers who visited each township and assembled the inhabitants to give their chief's orders.
Occupying the territory between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific Coast, the Niquirano were governed by chief Nicarao, or Nicaragua, a rich ruler who lived in Nicaraocali, now the city of Rivas. The Chorotegano lived in the central region of Nicaragua. These two groups had intimate contact with the Spanish conquerors, paving the way for the racial mix of native and European stock now known as mestizos. The Chontal, the term means foreigner, occupied the central mountain region. This group was smaller than the other two, and it is not known when they first settled in Nicaragua.
In the west and highland areas where the Spanish settled, the indigenous population was almost completely wiped out by the rapid spread of new diseases brought by the Spaniards, for which the native population had no immunity, and the virtual enslavement of the remainder of the indigenous people. In the east, where the Europeans did not settle, most indigenous groups survived. The English, however, did introduce guns and ammunition to one of the local peoples, the Bawihka, who lived in northeast Nicaragua. The Bawihka later intermarried with runaway slaves from Britain's Caribbean possessions, and the resulting population, with its access to superior weapons, began to expand its territory and push other indigenous groups into the interior. This Afro-indigenous group became known to the Europeans as Miskito, and the displaced survivors of their expansionist activities were called the Sumo.
In 1522, the first Spaniards entered the region of what would become known as Nicaragua. Gil González Dávila with a small force reached its western portion after a trek through Costa Rica, following a near disaster while exploring the western coast of Central America. He proceeded to explore the fertile western valleys and was impressed with the Indian civilization he found there. He and his small army gathered gold and baptized Indians along the way. Eventually, they so imposed upon the Indians that they were attacked and nearly annihilated. González Dávila returned to his expedition's starting point in Panama and reported on his find, naming the area Nicaragua. However, governor Pedrarias Dávila attempted to arrest him and confiscate his treasure. He was forced to flee to Santo Domingo to outfit another expedition.
Within a few months, Nicaragua was invaded by several Spanish forces, each led by a conquistador. González Dávila was authorized by royal decree, and came in from the Caribbean coast of Honduras. Francisco Hernández de Córdoba at the command of the governor of Panama approached from Costa Rica. Pedro de Alvarado and Cristóbal de Olid at the command of Hernán Cortés, came from Guatemala through San Salvador and Honduras.
Córdoba apparently came with the intention of colonization. In 1524, he established permanent settlements in the region, including two of Nicaragua's principal towns: Granada on Lake Nicaragua and León east of Lake Managua. But he soon found it necessary to prepare defenses for the cities and go on the offensive against incursions by the other conquistadores.
The inevitable clash between the Spanish forces did not impede their devastation of the indigenous population. The Indian civilization was destroyed. The series of battles came to be known as The War of the Captains. By 1529, the conquest of Nicaragua was complete. Several conquistadores came out winners, and some were executed or murdered. Pedrarias Dávila was a winner; although he had lost control of Panama, he had moved to Nicaragua and established his base in León. Through adroit diplomatic machinations, he became the first governor of the colony.
The land was parceled out to the conquistadores. The area of most interest was the western portion. It included a wide, fertile valley with huge, freshwater lakes, a series of volcanoes, and volcanic lagoons. Many Indians were soon enslaved to develop and maintain "estates" there. Others were put to work in mines in northern Nicaragua, but the great majority were sent as slaves to Panama and Peru, for significant profit to the new landed aristocracy. Many Indians died through disease and neglect by the Spaniards, who controlled everything necessary for their subsistence.
In 1538, the Viceroyalty of New Spain was established, encompassing all of Mexico and Central America, except Panama. By 1570, the southern part of New Spain was designated the Captaincy General of Guatemala. The area of Nicaragua was divided into administrative "parties" with León as the capital. In 1610, the volcano known as Momotombo erupted, destroying the capital. It was rebuilt northwest of its original site.
The history of Nicaragua remained relatively static for three hundred years following the conquest. There were minor civil wars and rebellions, but they were quickly suppressed. The region was subject to frequent raids by Dutch, French and British pirates; the city of Granada was invaded twice, in 1658 and 1660.
Nicaragua became a part of the Mexican Empire and then gained its independence as a part of the United Provinces of Central America in 1821 and as an independent republic in its own right in 1838. The Mosquito Coast based on Bluefields on the Atlantic was claimed by the United Kingdom (and its predecessor states) as a protectorate from 1655 to 1850; this was delegated to Honduras in 1859 and transferred to Nicaragua in 1860, though remained autonomous until 1894.