Nicaragua has strong folklore, music and religious traditions, deeply influenced by Iberian culture but enriched with Amerindian sounds and flavors. The west of the country was colonized by Spain and has a similar culture to other Spanish-speaking American countries. The eastern half of the country, on the other hand, was once a British protectorate. English is still predominant in this region and spoken domestically along with Spanish and indigenous languages. Its culture is similar to that of Caribbean nations that were or are British possessions, such as Jamaica, Belize, the Cayman Islands, etc.

Recent immigration by Spanish speakers has largely influenced younger generations, and an increasing number of people are either bilingual at home or speak Spanish only. There is a relatively large population of people of mixed African descent, as well as a smaller Garifuna population. Due to the African influence, in the East Coast, there is a different kind of music. It is the popular dance music called ‘Palo de Mayo‘, or Maypole, which is celebrated during the Maypole Festival, during the month of May. The music is sensual with intense rhythms.

The celebration is derived from the British Maypole for May Day celebration, as adapted and transformed by the Afro-Nicaraguans on the Caribbean or Mosquito Coast.

Of the many cultures that were present before European colonization, the Nahuatl-speaking peoples who populated the west of the country have essentially been assimilated into the mainstream culture. In the east, however, several indigenous groups have maintained a distinct identity. The Miskito, Sumo, Garifuna, and Rama people still use their original languages, and also usually speak Spanish and/or English.