Creoles of Nicaragua - Orientation

Identification. The Creoles of Nicaragua are an Afro-Caribbean population of mixed African, Amerindian, and European ancestry, most of whom live in Nicaragua. The Nicaraguan Creoles' distinctive culture is strongly influenced by its West African and British roots, as well as by prolonged interaction with North Americans, Nicaraguan mestizos, and the Miskito (a Nicaraguan Afro-Amerindian group). "Mosquito" is the name given to the region and the latter people by early European visitors to the area. The name "Miskito," currently used to designate this people and their language, is apparently a twentieth-century ethnographic innovation that more closely approximates the Miskito people's name for themselves, in accordance with the phonetics of their own language.

Location. The bulk of the Creole population is concentrated in the market/port town of Bluefields, located at 12°00′ N and 83°50′ W, and in a number of small communities scattered north and south of that town along Nicaragua's southern Caribbean coast, part of a region known as the Mosquito Coast (or Mosquitia). The terrain is low-lying tropical rain forest, with an average annual rainfall of 448 centimeters and a mean temperature of 26.4° C. This coastal plateau is crossed by large rivers and fringed by brackish lagoons, on the banks of which most Creole settlements are located. Smaller numbers of Creoles reside in the large towns of the northern Caribbean coast, and a substantial number live in Managua (Nicaragua's capital), in other Central American countries, and in the United States.

Demography. In the early 1990s the approximately 25,000 Creoles who resided in Nicaragua represented less than 1 percent of that country's total population. The national census does not enumerate Creoles separately; during the 1980s, however, estimates of the size of the Creole population were made by an array of government institutions and in the course of various ethnographic studies. These estimates vary substantially. The most reliable approximations place 10,000 Creoles in Bluefields, 11,400 elsewhere on the Caribbean coast, and perhaps 5,000 in other areas of Nicaragua.

Linguistic Affiliation. Most Creoles speak, as their first language, Miskito Coast Creole (MC Creole), an English-based creole closely related to other creoles spoken in the Anglophone Caribbean, particularly in Belize and Jamaica. By the 1990s, all but the oldest Creoles were fluent Spanish speakers as well. MC Creole is described by Holm (1982, 3) as characterized by a "... very African syntax organizing sentences out of words from a variety of sources: most . . . from English . . . but . . . [also] from Miskito, African languages, and .. . New World Spanish." There is evidence that MC Creole is being influenced at the syntactic and the lexical levels by Central American Spanish.


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