In 1502, explorer Christopher Columbus became the first European known to have reached what is now Nicaragua, the largest country in Central America. In 1524, conquistador Francisco Hernández de Córdoba founded the first permanent Spanish settlement at Granada on Lake Nicaragua. In September 1821, after the dissolution of the Captaincy General of Guatemala (an administrative division of the Spanish Empire including present-day Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Mexican state of Chiapas), Nicaragua briefly became part of the First Mexican Empire, before joining the newly formed United Provinces of Central America (renamed the Federal Republic of Central America) in 1823. Nicaragua finally became an independent republic in 1838.
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