Ometepe Island

The Settlement of Ometepe

The first settlement on Ometepe Island are very old. We know that the Chibchas and Tiaguanacos reached South America, occupying the strip of land along the Pacific and ultimately the island. The first migration occurred at approximately 10,000 BC. Considered autochthonous, these first groups were fruit gatherers and great fishers and hunters. From this race, we inherited our low height, straight hair and a skin tone that is neither black nor white but rather more copper-colored.

These groups ere also the first to make stone utensils, such as mortars and bowls. Notably, their burials involved flat stone plaques measuring 72 inches long and 36 inches wide. This can still be seen at burial sites in Los Ramos, San Jose del Sur and Los Angeles.

Los Mangues or Chorotegas.

The Chorotegas branch know as the Mangues arrived in the third century, but the heaviest migration of Chorotegas occurred in the sixth and seventh centuries.
The new arrivals rapidly mixed with indigenous groups and improved their stone-working techniques.

The continued sculpting statues and carving on rocks in the form glyphs, creating petro-glyphs. According to Wolfang Haberlan, these farmers and fishers were those who produced many of our statuaries and ceramic pieces.
The Chorotegas inhabited the Central and Pacific regions of Nicaragua, establishing a government of nine members, in which each members represented a star of the solar system. Their capital was in DIRIA.
Macaws and parrots (called churis) were considered sacred bird, and the Chorotegas planted many loquat trees (called nunosapot). For this the island and exotic bird, including parrots, around Maderas Volcano, although the macaw is now extinct on Ometepe.

The Nahuas

Finally, the Nahoas arrived in the ninth and tenth centuries, populating the isthmus of Rivas and establishing their principal city of Nicarao Callí. The Nahuas converted Ometepe  into a sacred island. Like the Mangues or Chorotegas, they arrived from Mexico and brought their religions and custom with them. According to legend, they came from the mythological cities of Ticomega and Mahuatega. In reality, they originated from Huchue Tlapayán (now Tula, Mexico).

The Nahuas provided the final touches to our indigenous culture, improving the techniques used to make ceramic and refining their decoration, and embellishing the use of animal representation in totemism. They increased the ritual to Quetzalcoatl, Quiateot, and many deities such as Xochiquetzal, the sun god. These religious activities were carried out at the different water sources on Ometepe Island, specially at Rio Buen Suceso, Ilcue, Tichana and near the vents of the volcano. Luna ceramics and censer are attribute to the Nahuas.

The Mayas

There is significant evidence that the Mayas arrived in their periods of extermination. Possibly in the middle of the tenth century. They had outstanding pottery. It is believe that they inhabited a town called Esquípulas, in which many ceramic relics, jade and even zoomorphic gold figures are found.


When Gil González reached San Jorge or the coast of Nicarao Calli, he was surprised to see the beautiful landscape presented by the island and its two volcanoes. He discovered the  ̋freshwater sea˝ (Lake Nicaragua or Cocibolca) on January 21, 1522 and, on behalf of the Spanish King, took possession on April 12, 1523.
Francisco Hernandez de Córdoba set out to explore the freshwater sea and its possible connection with the Atlantic Ocean. Accompanying him were captains Hernando de Soto, Ruy Díaz and Sebastian de Benalcazar.

Later, Gabriel de Rojas was commissioned by Diego López de Salcedo to explore the islands of the Great Lake of Nicargua.
Along with Diego Machuca and Martin de Este, de Rojas was the first Spaniard to reach the islands of Lake Cocobolca, including the island of Ometepe


Franciscan monks reached Ometepe in 1610, teaching Christian religion and the Spanish language. By mandate of the Spanish Crown, new custom, a new language and new belief were to be imposed. The Franciscans replaced the indigenous gods with Christian saints.

The Cemeteries

Our indigenous ancestors were accustomed to buying their dead around their tribal communities. For this reason, many funerary urns and stone and ceramic artifacts are found at sites dispersed around the island. The indigenous buried their relatives with all of their belongings.
The conquistadors imposed the custom of burying the dead at a single location. In this sense, they established two cemeteries: one in Moyogalpa and the other in Altagracia. The Moyogalpa cemetery was situated in the southern sector of the town (today´s city center); that in Altagracia was located on the outskirts near Tagüizapa. With the established of the two municipalities in 1835, the current cemeteries in both Altagracia and Moyogalpa were founded. The colonizer also replaced clay urns with wooden coffins for burying the dead.
Currently, Ometepe is a tourist attraction because of its historical, anthropological and archeological richness, in addition to its beaches and countryside and hospitality shown by local islanders.