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The Caribbean Mosquito Coast (or Miskito Coast) historically consisted of an area along the Atlantic coast of present-day Nicaraguamarker, named after its native Miskito Indians and long dominated by Britishmarker interests. The Mosquito Coast was incorporated into Nicaragua in 1894; however, in 1960 the northern part was granted to Hondurasmarker by the International Court of Justicemarker.


Although its name sometimes applies to the whole eastern seaboard of Nicaragua — and even to La Mosquitia in Hondurasmarker, i.e. the coast region as far west as the Río Negromarker or Tinto – the Mosquito Coast more accurately consisted of a narrow strip of territory, fronting the Caribbean Seamarker, and extending from about 11°45’ to 14°10’ N. It stretched inland for an average distance of 40 miles (60 km), and measured about 225 miles (360 km) from north to south. In the north, its boundary skirted the Wawa River; in the west, it corresponded with the eastern limit of the Nicaraguan highlands; in the south, it followed the Río Rama. The chief towns are Bluefieldsmarker or Blewfields, the largest town and capital of Nicaragua's Región Autónoma del Atlántico Sur, Magdala on Pearl Cay, Prinzapolkamarker on the river of that name, Wounta near the mouth of the Kukalaya, and Carata near the mouth of the Wawa River.

The Mosquito Coast is so called from its principal inhabitants, the Miskito Indians, whose name was corrupted into Mosquito by European settlers. The Miskito Indians, of whom there are several tribes, are short of stature and very dark-skinned. Their colour is said to be due to intermarriage with shipwrecked slave.

Mosquito Coast, Honduras/Nicaragua
The first European settlement in the Mosquito country started in 1630, when the agents of the English chartered Providence Company — of which the Earl of Warwick was chairman and John Pym treasurer — occupied two small caysmarker and established friendly relations with the local inhabitants.

From 1655 to 1860, Britainmarker claimed a protectorate over the Miskito Indians; but little success attended the various endeavours to plant colonies, and the protectorate was disputed by Spain, the Central American republics, and the United Statesmarker. The opposition of the United States was due very largely to the fear that Britain would acquire a privileged position in regard to the proposed interoceanic canal. In 1848, the seizure of Greytown (San Juan del Nortemarker), by the Miskito Indians, with British support, aroused great excitement in the United States, and even involved the risk of war. In 1854, the Americanmarker ship USS Cyane bombarded Greytown after failing to receive compensation for violence which had been directed against Solon Borland, an American diplomat, and other US citizens. But through the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty of 1850, both powers pledged themselves not to fortify, colonise or exercise dominion over any part of Central America; in November 1859, Britain delegated its protectorate to Hondurasmarker.

This caused great dissatisfaction among the Indians, who shortly afterwards revolted; and on 28 January 1860 Britain and Nicaragua concluded the treaty of Managuamarker, which transferred to Nicaragua the suzerainty over the entire Caribbean coast from Cabo Gracias a Diosmarker to Greytown (now San Juan del Nortemarker) but granted autonomy to the Indians in the more limited Mosquito Reserve (the area described above). The local chief accepted this change on condition that he should retain his local authority, and receive a yearly subvention of £1000 until 1870. But on his death in 1864, Nicaragua refused to recognize his successor.

The reserve nevertheless continued to be governed by an elected chief, aided by an administrative council, which met in Bluefields; and the Indians denied that the suzerainty of Nicaragua connoted any right of interference with their internal affairs. The question was referred for arbitration to the Habsburg emperor of Austriamarker, whose award (published in 1880) upheld the contention of the Indians, and affirmed that the suzerainty of Nicaragua was limited by the Indians' right of self-government.

First flag of the Mosquito Coast
When in 1894 Rigoberto Cabezas led a campaign to annex the reserve, natives responded with vigorous protest, an appeal to Britain to protect them, and more militant resistance — to little avail. The situation was such that, from July 6 to August 7, the US occupied Bluefields to 'protect US interests'. After enjoying almost complete autonomy for fourteen years, on 20 November 1894 their territory formally became incorporated in that of the republic of Nicaragua by Nicaraguan president José Santos Zelaya. The former Mosquito Coast was established as the Nicaraguan department of Zelaya. During the 1980s, the department disappeared, substituted by RAAN (Región Autónoma del Atlántico Norte) and RAAS (región Autónoma del Atlántico Sur), autonomous regions with a certain degree of self-government.

The first version of the Mosquito Coast flag was adopted 1834. The second was adopted in 1860 when the Nicaraguan flag replaced the Union Flag in the canton.

In 1847 Moravian Church missionaries from Herrnhutmarker, Saxonymarker in what is today Germany, began mission work among the Miskito Indians and Creoles. By the end of the Century, almost the entire native population had been converted.


The Mosquito Coast of Nicaraguamarker has a population of 118,000 inhabitants, consisting of 57% Miskito, 22% Creoles (Afro-Europeans) 15% Ladino, 4% Sumu (Amerindian), 1% Garifuna (Afro-Indians), 0.5% Chinese and 0.5% Rama (Amerindian). [30258]

Miskito Creole Ladino Sumo Garifuna Chinese Rama
57% 22% 15% 4% 1% .5% .5%

See also


  1. Charles Hale, 1994, p.37

Sources and references

  • - Mosquito Coast flag
  • RoyalArk-Mosquitos
  • A Bibliography of the Mosquito Coast of Nicaragua by Courtney de Kalb, in Bulletin of the American Geographic Society., vol. xxvi. (1894)
  • Studies of the Mosquito Shore in 1892 by the same author, and in the same publication, vol. xxv. (I893)
  • A Forgotten Puritan Colony in No. 165 of Blackwood's Magazine (Edinburgh, 1898), described the attempt at colonization made in 1630.
  • See also Der Streit um die Mosquito-Küste by J. Richter, in Zeitschrift f. Gesellschaft d. Erdkunde, No. 30 (Berlin, 1895).
  • Mitla: A Narrative of Incidents and Personal Adventures on a Journey in Mexico, Guatemala and Salvador in the years 1853 to 1855 by G. F. Von Tempsky (London, 1858)
  • Von Tempsky: Adventurer by W. T. Parham (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1969) SBN 340 10798 7 (Chapters 2 & 6 are on the Mosquito Coast)
  • The War in Nicaragua by W. Walker (New York, 1860)
  • Charles Hale, 'Resistance and Contradiction: Miskitu Indians and the Nicaraguan State, 1894-1987'. Stanford University, 1994. 304 pgs.

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