The Indigenous Rama People of Nicaragua

When you travel a lot you will start to notice that even though the majority of a particular population may speak the same language, there are invariably at least one or two small groups of people who speak a different language or who even have a different culture. The Rama people are such a group who live in Nicaragua.

There are currently approximately 900 Rama people living in relatively close proximity to each other near the Rama Cay island on the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. This small group of indigenous people of Nicaragua live a somewhat rudimentary existence when compared to other people in Nicaragua. Most of them feed themselves by engaging in hunting, fishing and growing crops. However, their main crops are bananas and white cacao, so they may engage in trade where possible to have access to a greater variety of products.

Probably the most distinctive aspect of their culture is their language. Unfortunately the Rama language is slowly dying out and today there are only about 24 elderly people who are still able to speak it fluently. The language is related to Maléku which is still spoken in Costa Rica and it is commonly grouped as a Chibchan language. Recent years have seen massive efforts underway to revitalize this language to prevent it from dying out all together. Other languages spoken by the Rama people include Spanish and Rama Cay Creole.

Despite their relatively simplistic lifestyles, the Rama have not always lead a life free of troubles. In fact, they have had to join forces with other indigenous groups such as the Miskito and Sumo peoples in order to fight government efforts to build a cross-isthmian freight corridor across their land. Such a move would result in their displacement and this would negatively impact on their way of life – something which is very precious to them. Because they are an indigenous group it would seem that their needs are easily overlooked and they have also had to become somewhat forceful at times to protect their land. At one stage they had to violently oppose the building of a railway across their land despite the fact that the government saw fit to allow an American company to do this.

It is a pity that these native peoples receive so little recognition and power from their local government. Hopefully with time that will change and all indigenous groups in Nicaragua will receive the same rights and recognition that the rest of the population enjoy. Why not strengthen their position by visiting the Rama people and getting to know them better. Understanding and exploring their culture can go a long way towards providing them with higher levels of acceptance and power.