Creoles of Nicaragua - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Creole social relations are structured by a complex mix of factors, including kinship, age, gender, class, color, and educational level. Rural Creole communities, although stratified by age and gender, are otherwise relatively egalitarian. In urban areas, however, color, class, and educational level influence many forms of social interaction. Historically, Creoles have been active in a variety of social groupings. These include male social clubs and secret societies (segregated by class), clubs formed around barrio baseball teams, burial societies, men's and women's social-service clubs, barrio-improvement organizations, and church organizations. Urban Creoles consider themselves superior to those living in rural communities. Creoles generally feel superior to the indigenous and mestizo inhabitants of the Coast. Interaction with members of these other groups is often limited to the public sphere in the urban areas.

Political Organization. During much of the nineteenth century, Creole men occupied most of the top positions in the Mosquito Reserve. Although Creoles have periodically protested their political marginalization, since that time their participation in the regional and national political process has in general been through the established, mestizo-dominated national parties and not in organizations that were established on the basis of racial/ethnic or regional identity. There have been some exceptions: many Creoles joined the Garvey movement in the early 1920s; in the 1970s a number of quasi-political civic-action groups sprang up. Since the Reincorporation, there have always been a few Creole men among the top political leadership on the southern Coast. The number of such leaders has increased since the 1960s, but mestizos remain the dominant political force in the area. In the rural communities, elder males from influential families have held the principal positions of leadership. In the twentieth century the Nicaraguan state took advantage of this structure by appointing leading males as local representatives of the executive and judiciary.

Social Control. The principal mechanisms of social control among Creoles are the overlapping structures of family, church, and state. The Protestant missionary churches play an important role not only in establishing the norms of everyday conduct but also, to a certain extent, in enforcing them. The police and the judiciary are the major coercive forces that compel proper conduct.

Conflict. Interfamilial conflict—especially between women—is a constant in Creole society. Creoles traditionally have been antagonistic toward the national government. This animosity has translated into conflictive relationships with mestizos, particularly those from the Pacific. One illustration of this tendency was the Creole opposition to the Sandinista Revolution during the 1980s.

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