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The Miskito Indians of Nicaragua

1 August 1988

Nicaragua is a small country with a low population density in all provinces. The majority of the some three million citizens of the Central American State are racially mixed, or Mestizo. The Nicaraguan Mestizos are the dominant national group unified by a common language, Spanish; a common history as a result of Spanish colonialism; and they are overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. Although they identify themselves as Hispanic or Latin American, they are mixed American Indian, African and European.

However, in Nicaragua there are also peoples who have maintained or developed specific ethnic and national identities distinct from the majority Mestizos. These peoples total approximately 10% of the population, and are located in the eastern half of the country.

Although a formal census has never been taken, it is estimated that the population of the eastern region, or Atlantic Coast, as it is called, number around 250,000. Occupying more than half the national territory, the peoples of the Atlantic Coast make up less than 10% of the total population. Miskitos in Nicaragua number anywhere from 70,000 to 150,000, and there are at least 17,000, but perhaps as many as 40,000 Miskitos indigenous to what has been Honduran national territory since the international border was established by the World Court at its present location, the Coco River, in 1960.

Please note that the terminology in the fields of minority rights and indigenous peoples’ rights has changed over time. MRG strives to reflect these changes as well as respect the right to self-identification on the part of minorities and indigenous peoples. At the same time, after over 50 years’ work, we know that our archive is of considerable interest to activists and researchers. Therefore, we make available as much of our back catalogue as possible, while being aware that the language used may not reflect current thinking on these issues.

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Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz