History

The early history of Ometepe Island remains a mystery, but what is sure that organized settlements date to at least 1,500 BC. Though exist differing opinions as to the origin of the ancient inhabitants of the island, there is no doubt that in the last two thousand years waves of migrations from both the north and the south took advantage of the island’s fertile soils and left thousands of petroglyphs and elegant basalt statues that celebrate the inseparable co-existence of man and nature. Many precious ceramic pieces have been recovered from the pre-Conquest years, some of which can be seen in island museums. The island was brought under Spanish rule a century later than the rest of Nicaragua’s Pacific, and unlike the mainland, which was subjugated by the cross and sword, the island was conquered only by the cross, with the evangelization performed by Franciscan monks in the 1600’s. Pirate attacks were not unusual during the 1700’s and in the 1800’s William Walker’s mercenary troops found refuge on Ometepe after fleeing from Granada - before being sacked and thrown out by the island population. Despite several indigenous uprisings triggered by land grabs of community property by mainlanders in the 1900’s, Ometepe avoided Nicaragua’s infamous 20th century conflicts. Sandino’s war against the US Marines (1927-1933), the Somoza period insurrections (1978-79) and the Contra War (1981-1990) were all fought exclusively on the mainland and subsequently Isla de Ometepe is known today as the Oasis of Peace.

After more than three millenniums of sustenance agriculture, the 20th century saw the introduction of commercial planting with tobacco and coffee plantations being established. Today most of these have been replaced by plantain groves, making Ometepe one of Nicaragua’s largest banana producers, with buyers coming from as far away as El Salvador and Honduras to load up trucks with plantains. Tourism is growing on Ometepe annually and is now second to plantains as an island income producer.