Diriangen was born in 1496 and was a member of the Chortega tribe in Central America. He was trained as a warrior and became especially skilled in fighting with a wooden club with sharpened teeth and flint, and in spear fighting. As a young man, he earned the distinction to have his head shaved leaving only a tuft of hair on the top signifying his bravery as a warrior. He fought and survived many battles with several other tribes in the area. He was a legendary leader of the Chortega tribe of indigenous peoples in Central America. He came to be known as the first Nicaraguan resistance fighter against the Spanish in the 1520’s.
In 1523, the Spanish captain Gil Gonzalez de Avila reached having landed in Central America, ventured into Nicoya, a city belonging to the Chortega people. Gonzalez has a contingency of 100 Spanish troops and another 400 indigenous soldiers. Captain Gonzalez then entered Nicaragua and was received by the local chief Nicarao near the majestic Lake Cocibolca. After talks between the two leaders, Nicarao accepted the request to be baptized along with 6,000 other indigenous people.
As Captain Gonzalez and his men furthered their exploration into Central America, they met with chief Diriangen. A great procession preceded Diriangen, and the Spanish were treated with presents of turkeys and other gifts. Gonzalez asked Diriangen to allow the baptism of his people as he had done to Nacarao, which also included allegiance to Spain and recognition of the authority of the Spaniards. Diriangen requested three days to reflect on the prospect.
Diriangen had no intention of allowing Captain Gonzalez baptize them, or to make any allegiance to Gonzalez or to Spain. The three days were spent observing the invaders, counting their numbers and movements and taking stack of their military might.
By the end of the three days, Diriangen, with over 4,000 of his tribe, attacked the expedition, capturing one of them and wounding several others. A second attack was made by Chief Nicaragua in which Captain Gonzalez was barely able to save himself and return to his ships. According to oral history, Diriangens last attempt to repel the Spanish invasion was fought on what is known today as the Casita Volcano.
At the end of 1524, Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba completed the conquest of the region, and founded the cities of Leon and Granada.
The Spanish treatment of the indigenous people was atrocious, and the efforts of early leaders such as Diriangen to thwart the invasion were brave, but simply not strong enough against the western weaponry and tactics. The worst result of the invasion was genocide. According to the chroniclers Oviedo and Las Casas, it is estimated that there were more than two million indigenous people in Nicaragua at the time of the Spanish arrival. At the end of their conquest, one million six hundred thousand were killed, leaving only four hundred thousand indigenous in Nicaruagua; 80 percent had been killed.
A statue of Diriangen is now erected in Diriamba Park. He is featured on the front of the Five Cordobas banknote issued in 1991 and 1995.