Most Nicaraguans are of both European and indigenous ancestry, and the culture of the country reflects the mixed Ibero-European and indigenous heritage of its people. Only the indigenous of the eastern half of the country remain ethnically distinct and retain their tribal customs and languages. A large black minority, of Afro-Caribbean origin, is concentrated along the Caribbean coast. In the mid-1980s, the central government divided the eastern half of the country--the former department of Zelaya--into two autonomous regions and granted the people of the region limited self-rule under an elected regional council of 45 deputies and an indirectly-elected governor.
Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion, but Evangelical Protestantism has experienced rapid growth over the past 10 years. There are strong Anglican and Moravian communities on the Caribbean coast, and a small Muslim population exists in Managua and in the larger cities along the Pacific coast. Buddhist and Jewish communities are small. Most Nicaraguans live in the Pacific lowlands and the adjacent interior highlands. The population is 58% urban.