Ethnic Diversity in the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua

The major wealth of Nicaragua’s natural resources lies in the Caribbean coast of the country which comprises 57% of the national territory. The marine life on the Caribbean coast is incomparable and the coastal rainforests are second only to those in Brazil. The region is rich in mineral resources which have the potential to yield $5 billion. Measures are now being taken through URACCAN to provide the foundation for the ecologically sound development of the area. The abundant seafood, mining, and forestry resources can be developed for the benefit of people who live on the Coast.

The Caribbean coast is in great contrast to the Pacific Coast region of the country. The east has its distinct social and cultural nuances that are unique to the Caribbean Coast. This region was never colonized by the Spanish and the influence here has mainly been of the British colonists and neighboring islands. The Caribbean Coast is home to six different ethnic groups speaking four different languages.

The Mayangna (Sumu) and Rama tribes are the direct descendents of the indigenous people of the region. These are now very few in number and their culture is much diluted. Only the Mayangna still speak their original language. The original ancestors of the Miskitu people have intermarried with people of African and Afro-Caribbean origin over the past three centuries. This has naturally brought in a great modification their habits, language and culture. Today the Miskitu people are the largest ethnic minority community in the Caribbean coast and still speak their own language.

The English-speaking Creoles who are the descendents of white settlers on the Coast and their African slaves imported in the 18th Century are the next largest group of ethnic minorities. They have further intermarried with subsequent immigrants who were Afro-Caribbean workers from Jamaica and Belize. Now the majority group in the region ironically is the Spanish-speaking Mestizos, who moved over various times from the Pacific Coast in search of work. There is also a small population of Black Caribbean people who have descended from black slaves and have married the local Caribbean-Indians. They too, like the Creoles, speak English.