Southern Nicaragua was inhabited by several indigenous populations prior to the arrival of Europeans. The most notable were the Nahuatl-speaking peoples of the Pipil-Mangue group, who were not related to the Aztecs of Mexico. The Pipil-Mangue included various subgroups such as the Nicarao, Chorotega, and Subtiaba.
In addition to the Pipil-Mangue, there were also various indigenous groups that spoke languages from the Chibchan family, including the Chontales, Rama, and Matagalpa peoples. Other groups included the Orosi, who were known for their metallurgy skills, and the Niquirano, who lived on the island of Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua.
The Niquirano were an indigenous group who lived on the island of Ometepe in Lake Nicaragua, which is located in the southern part of present-day Nicaragua. Ometepe is a volcanic island with two peaks, Volcan Concepcion and Volcan Maderas, and is considered a sacred place by the Nahuatl-speaking peoples of the region.
Ometepe may be translated as ‘the place of two hills. In the extinct indigenous Nahuatl language, ome means ‘two’ and tepetl means ‘hills/mountains’.
It is said that the first Niquirano inhabitants of Ometepe came to the island after following a prediction that instructed them to search out an ‘”island paradise that consisted of two peaks”. Ometepe had already been inhabited by a number of other tribes and cultures, some as early as 1,000 BC.
They had a complex culture with sophisticated agricultural practices, as well as a strong tradition of fishing and hunting. They built impressive stonework structures, including petroglyphs and monoliths, which are still visible on the island today.
Their ruling structure was complex, with a ruling class of nobles and a priestly class who oversaw religious ceremonies and offerings. They worshipped a number of deities, including a creator god named Numangapri, and had a strong connection to the natural world.
The Niquirano believed in a “twin creation myth” where the world was created by two twin brothers, Teakata and Nambitok, who represented light and darkness respectively.
The Orosi were an indigenous people who lived in what is now southern Nicaragua and northern Costa Rica (though primarily the Guanacaste region of Costa Rica). They were known for their advanced metallurgy skills, particularly in the production of goldwork and copperwork.
The Orosi used a combination of hammering, casting, and lost-wax techniques to create intricate metal objects, including jewelry, masks, and figurines. Their work was highly valued by neighboring groups, and they often traded their metal goods for other goods or services.
They also produced beautiful ceramics, decorating pottery with intricate designs, often depicting animals, plants, and geometric patterns. Some of their pottery was used for practical purposes such as cooking, while other pieces were used as ceremonial objects or for decoration.
The Orosi were also skilled farmers and practiced terrace agriculture on the steep slopes of the Cordillera de Guanacaste. They grew a variety of crops, including maize, beans, and squash, as well as cacao and cotton.