Cultivation of Nicaraguan Coffee began early but it did not dominate the economy as in Guatemala and El Salvador. Coffee cultivation began in the lands in the southern uplands in earnest in the 1860’s where the transition from other commercial agricultural endeavors was smooth.
But the prime coffee growing lands in Nicaragua turned out to be in the north central highlands, where Indians owned most of the land, and a familiar course of action that was taking place in other growing areas of the world was about to ensue.
That was the systematic elimination of native populations that stood between the coffee barons and huge profits from coffee experts. These coffee wars were often very bloody and lasted for years.
Those that weren’t killed were enslaved to work the plantations on what was once their own land. In 1881 several thousand Indians revolted and attacked the government headquarters in Matagalpa and demanded an end to the forced labor.
The Army suppressed the revolt killing over a thousand natives. Nevertheless, the resistance remained strong for many years and coffee growing in Nicaragua was dangerous business. Many top growers and government officials were assassinated by resistance fighters.
The U.S. government even sent troops to protect U.S. interests as the U.S. was considering building a canal there to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. However, after securing rights for the canal in Panama, the U.S. was not as eager to provide support and as a result the Nicaraguan Coffee industry stagnated compared to other Central American nations.
Most of the political unrest was centered around the coffee industry and government corruption that involved catering to the businessmen that wanted the prime highlands for growing coffee.
The unrest continued well into the twentieth century and in 1979 the Sandinista resistance fighters led a revolt against the longtime president Anastasio Somaza Jr. The entire country rallied behind the Sandinistas and Somaza fled the country.
The Sandinistas took over and promised a better life for all including the coffee growers and Indian laborers. Although they knew very little about the coffee business they did manage to turn the country, and the Nicaraguan Coffee industry around.
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