There is evidence of settlement by Paleo-Indians in the region around 4000 BC. Spanish explorers, led by Gil Gonzalez de Ávila, arrived in the west of present-day Nicaragua in 1523. They made contact with the Niquirano and the Chorotegano tribes, thought to have been linked to the Aztec civilization in Mexico, and the Chontal, who shared cultural traits with the Honduran Maya people. Government up to this point was through tribal monarchies and each grouping had distinct customs. In 1524 Francisco Hernández de Córdoba established Granada on Lake Nicaragua and León on Lake Managua. Many indigenous Indians were killed, died of introduced diseases or were enslaved. Estimates suggest the population fell from lm. to less than 100,000.
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