General issues: Republic 1862-1896, State of the Greater Republic of Central America 1896-1898, Republic 1896-Present
Country name on general issues: Nicaragua
- Regional issues:
- Mosquito Coast 1894-1899,
- Costa Atlantica/Cabo de Gracias a Dios department 1904-1909,
- Costa Atlantica/Zelaya department/Bluefields 1904-1912,
- Costa Atlantica/General issues 1912
Currency: 1 Peso = 100 Centavos 1862-1913, 1 Cordoba = 100 Centavos 1913-Present
Population: 429 000 in 1900, 6 080 000 in 2013
Political history Nicaragua
Colonization and the road to independence
Nicaragua is located in Central America. Before colonization Nicaragua was inhabited by a number of smaller Amerindian peoples. The first European to explore Nicaragua was Christopher Columbus, who visited Nicaragua in 1502 and claimed it for Spain. The first permanent Spanish settlements date from 1524, and by 1529 Nicaragua is fully established as a Spanish colony. In 1570, Nicaragua is made part of the Captaincy General of Guatemala – de jure part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain but de facto self governing.
After Napoleon had conquered Spain, a wave of independence movements swept across the Spanish possessions in the Americas. The war of independence in Central America was fought, from 1810, in the Viceroyalty of New Spain, that gained independence as the Empire of Mexico in 1821. The provinces of the Captaincy General of Guatemala proclaimed independence from Spain the same year – without a shot being fired. In 1822, the provinces joined the empire of Mexico. The empire, however, was short lived and, as the empire was dissolved in 1823, the provinces of the former Captaincy General proclaimed independence from Mexico as the United Provinces of Central America. By the constitution of 1824, the provinces would form the federal republic of Central America. The province of Nicaragua was proclaimed the state of Nicaragua in 1825. The federal republic of Central America would suffer from conflicts between the member states and that would soon lead to its dissolution. Nicaragua withdrew from the Federation in 1838 to become the fully independent state of Nicaragua. Nicaragua was proclaimed a republic in 1854.
De facto borders were established in the 1820’s. De jure the borders would be disputed well into the 20th century. The border with Costa Rica was the first to be formalized in 1896. With Colombia – that claimed rights to the Mosquito Coast – an agreement was signed in 1928, Colombia ceding the sovereignty over the Mosquito Coast to Nicaragua. The border with Honduras was the last to be legally established in 1960. The Corn Islands were leased to the United States from 1904 until 1971.
The Mosquito Coast was probably the most disputed territory of Nicaragua. The Mosquito Coast derives its name from the Miskito people – a people of mixed Afro-Amerindian origin. As early as 1740 the British had established a protectorate over the Miskito. The British left the territory in 1786 when it reverted to Spain. In the first part of 19th century the British reasserted their claims to the Mosquito Coast. The British revived the protectorate in 1844 – which brought them in conflict with Nicaragua. An agreement was reached in 1860. The British ceded sovereignty over the Mosquito Coast to Nicaragua, provided that the Miskito people would be granted self government. Thus, the Mosquito Reserve was established. Nicaragua dissolved the Reserve in 1894 and fully integrated it into Nicaragua as the province of Zelaya.
The 1840’s and 1850’s were politically unstable decades, with conflicts between the leading parties – the Conservatives and the Liberals – escalating into civil war several times. From the 1860’s, the Conservatives were in power for three decades. The liberals came to power in 1893, after a campaign led by José Santos Zelaya. Zelaya, from 1896 until 1898, joined the short lived Greater Republic of Central America, a federation with El Salvador and Honduras. In 1909 the Conservatives – backed by a United States military intervention – forced Zelaya to resign. The United States intervened again in 1912 and would occupy Nicaragua from 1912 until 1927 and then from 1927 until 1933. After the withdrawal of the United States, Anastasio Somoza came to power in 1937. Somoza would establish a dynastic dictatorship – the Somoza family would effectively rule the country until 1979.
Opposition against the Somoza dictatorship emerged in the 1960’s. In 1962, Carlos Fonseca and others founded the ‘Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional’, ‘FSLN'‘Sandinista National Liberation Front’. The FSLN was a socialist movement with links to other evolutionary movements in Central America. In the 1970’s, the support for the FSLN grew and, after a 1978-1979 civil war, Somoza was ousted. The FSLN – the ‘Sandinistas’ – would rule Nicaragua until 1990. Opposition was organized into paramilitary groups – known as the ‘Contras’ – which were heavily supported by the United States. The armed conflict would end when, in 1989, a treaty was signed. Elections followed in 1990 and were won by the opposition. Since 1990, Nicaragua seems to know relative stability. Elections are deemed to be free and fair.
Agriculture accounts for the largest part of the Nicaraguan exports. Nicaragua is qualified as a medium high development country on the United Nations Human Development Index. The largest population group are the mestizos – people of mixed Amerindian and white origin – who account for 69% of the population. The indigenous Amerindian peoples account for 5% of the population.
Postal history Nicaragua
The first stamps were issued in Nicaragua in 1862. Inspired by the seal of Nicaragua, these issues show an allegory of a mountain range with the cap of liberty. The issues, until 1882, were printed by the American Bank Note Co in New York. From 1890 to 1898, the stamps of Nicaragua were printed by Hamilton Bank Note Company, also in New York, under the Nicholas Seebeck contracts. Seebeck – a director of Hamilton Co – signed a contract with Nicaragua – as with Ecuador, El Salvador and Honduras – that implied he would print stamps free of charge, valid for only one year. Any unsold stamps were to be returned to Seebeck for sale to collectors. Seebeck also had the right to reprint stamps. The Seebeck issues are most often found mint or cancelled to order. From 1899, throughout the classical period, most stamps have been printed by a range foreign printing houses. Many of the original issues were overprinted – mostly new denominations and control overprints. In the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s, Nicaragua has issued large numbers of stamps aimed at the thematic collectors market. In the 1980’s, the Sandinista government, in addition to these thematic issues, issued propaganda stamps for the Sandinista regime. From the 2000’s, Nicaragua has reverted to a smaller stamp output with more themes of national interest.
British offices operated, from 1857, in Bluefields and Greytown. The office in Bluefields closed in 1863. The office in Greytown used the general issues of Great Britain from 1865 until it closed in 1882. The office in Greytown handled international mail until Nicaragua joined the UPU in 1882.
Special issues: Costa Atlantica
Special issues appeared for the departments on the Costa Atlantica, the Atlantic Coast. These were the Cabo Gracias a Dios and Zelaya departments. In these departments the peso was silver based – unlike the peso used in the rest of Nicaragua which was paper based. The peso in the Costa Atlantica departments thus having a higher value, was reason to issue stamps for specific use in these departments. For the Cabo Gracias a Dios department, stamps were issued from 1904 until 1909 – all provisionals overprinted on previous issues of Nicaragua. From 1910, the issues for the Zelaya department were also used in the Cabo Gracias de Dios. For the Zelaya department stamps were issued from 1904 until 1911 – again, all provisionals. In 1912, a set of definitives was issued for use in both of the Costa Atlantica departments. Resources suggest these issues were sold mainly at the post offices in Cabo Gracias de Dios and Bluefields. All these issues were withdrawn when Nicaragua introduced the gold peso as the uniform currency in the entire country in 1912, effective 1913.
Special issues: The Mosquito Provisionals
Michel lists provisionals issued in 1894 and 1899 – stamps of Nicaragua overprinted ‘Mosquito Provisional’ and one stamp overprinted ‘Telegrafo’, used as a postage stamp. For a more detailed discussion of the Mosquito Provisionals, please refer to the separate profile: Nicaragua – Mosquito Provisionals.