Bluefields, the previously prospering and booming colonial port in Nicaragua formerly ruled by Britain is now filled with slums and drug-trafficking.
Bluefields is the capital of the South Caribbean Autonomous Region (RACS) in Nicaragua. Composed of the largest population of people of African descent, Bluefields has a strong and direct relationship to Creole culture.
The British and Spanish held power in Bluefields during the 17th century. Spain conquered the Providencia settlement and inserted itself into the Miskito Indians’ African ancestral group. British then later extended control in Mosquitia and forced Africans to be slave labor, according to Disparate Diasporas.
Bluefields was sealed off from the rest of Nicaragua. This started with the British Protectorate of the Mosquitia (1710). The History Files website states that the Miskito natives claimed the colony of Greytown and controlled the indigenous communities. As the interest in the region declined, Britain assigned this protectorate to Honduras. Consequently, the Miskito rebelled against this, and power was transferred to Nicaragua.
A racial hierarchy prevailed alongside racial mixing of the various groups of people. For instance, the freed colored people were in the middle and the Maroons (unmixed Mosquitian former slaves of African descent) at the bottom.
Despite the British leaving Bluefields, slavery remained. Blackness was equated with servitude. Maroons defeated the British attempt to retain power over Bluefields by communicating to U.S. traders that they had been sold their freedom by Col. Robert Hodgson, a British imperialist of Nicaragua, and claimed direct descendancy from him. This confirmed their freedom and high social and racial hierarchy, according to Disparate Diasporas.
Separate from the directly oppressive colonial regimes, people inhabiting Bluefields referred to themselves as Miskito Coast Creole culture. The term described all the free English-Creole- speaking nonwhite people born in the Americas and residing in the Mosquitia. The Creoles that rose up held immense power and wealth. Among the Creoles, an elite held economic authority and possessed slaves. They used black and less wealthy populations as a source of labor.
During the late 1800’s, Bluefields became a trading center as a result of its trade with the U.S. According to BlackPast.org, Nicaragua established Spanish in place of English as the official language of the region.
It took approximately one hundred years until Bluefields regained its power from Nicaragua.
In 1988, the LA Times called Bluefields a “funky fishing port with a reggae beat and an Afro -Caribbean beat”. Now it is a region full of slums and run-down buildings.
Struck by Hurricane Joan and involved in the Nicaraguan Civil War in 1988, the population of Bluefields suffered economically. Essentially, the locals hold little social, political, and economic power. Although the Nicaraguan government is engaged in local affairs, it does not assist the local population.
Nacíon Comunitario Moskitia is an organization fighting for Bluefields’ autonomy and rights and is headed by Peter Moore. Through using a 1984 document, the organization will support the idea that the people from the self-governing region do not have to pay taxes to the Nicaraguan government. According to Tico Times, the document states “All income that the Miskito coast produces will be invested in their own benefit, preserving economic autonomy.”
Moore states that Nicaragua does not respect the laws of the self-governing region by taxing it just like other regions of Nicaragua while not investing in Bluefields.
There is further division with the segregation of the four indigenous groups. Each group has their own institutions accorded to them.
Bluefields has changed but there are groups working on bettering the conditions of the region.
This article was written by RK, a volunteer at the San Jose Peace & Justice Center. Thank you for your research and sharing this important topic.