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04 October 2016

The Jews of Nicaragua

When compared to other countries, the Jewish community of Nicaragua is very small. The community began when Jews arrived from Eastern Europe after 1929, and the majority of them made their homes in Managua, the capital city. It was never a very large group, as the Jewish population probably never surpassed 250 members.  

In 1972, when the community was less than 50 years of age, the country was devastated by a major earthquake. Seven years later the government of Nicaragua was overthrown by the Sandinista government, who were not welcoming to Jews. In fact, they punished any Jews who remained for their support of the past government. These two events led most of the remaining Jews to flee to the United States or other Latin American countries.
In 1990, Jews began returning after the overthrow of the Sandinista, however as late as the year 2000 the population was still probably less than 50 people.
Even with such a small population and a short history, the Jews of Nicaragua deserve to have their records preserved. They should be able to document their history.  This all goes back to the great quote from Alex Haley, which states,

"In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know who we are and where we have came from".

For this reason I am very excited to introduce a very valuable database available at FamilySearch. The collection, Nicaragua Civil Registration, 1809-2013, has been updated to now include over 2.5 million images of these wonderful records. Of course, the smaller congregation of Jews will only be a small part of this collection, however the dates cover the entire time the Jews were here.
As an example I searched for the record of a couple I knew were married in the early 1950's. Searching for the marriage of Edward Bernard Cohen and Edith Retelny in the 1950's, I entered that information into the search box. The results are shown below.

From this incredible record we were able to learn the names of both sets of parents for this wedding that took place on 22 August 1954 in Managua. In addition, by clicking on the View The Original Document link under the original, a full size image appears (partially below).

These records are a wonderful example of how if we look far enough we can find records that will help us identify our ancestors. Even though they are not a Jewish record, and in fact for a large part of the time of these records, the government was very much against the Jews, these records are still available which help document the Jewish people. Thanks to FamilySearch we can even search for them from the comfort of our own homes.

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