THE SOUTH ATLANTIC AUTONOMOUS REGION
TERRITORIAL BOUNDARIES AND POPULATION
The South Atlantic Autonomous Region is geographically bounded to the north by the
North Atlantic Autonomous Region; south by the San Juan River; east by the Caribbean Sea;
and west by the Department of Chontales. (See map.) The area of the region exceeds 17,000
Km2 and is approximately 14% of the national territory. The region is organized into seven
|La Cruz de Rio Grande
|Cuenca de Rio Grande
|The Corn Island
Rivers:The rainfall and the flow of the springs and brooks running off the hills
and valleys nourish the rivers. The most important rivers that flow into the Caribbean
Sea, the origin of the waters, are the Rio Grande de Matagalpa (450 Km.), Kurinwas (216
Km.), Punta Gorda (120 Km.), Escondido (88 Km.), and Wawashan (80 Km.). A majority of the
inhabitants are settled around the riverbanks and are totally dependent on the rivers for
transportation and communication.
Lagoons:The lagoons are natural dams that serve as protective barriers against
the ero-sion of the flowing waters. The Pearl Lagoon (515.18 Km2) is one of the most
important lagoons due to its rich marine resources. The Kurinwas, Wawashan, Patch and Nari
rivers feed it. There are also other smaller lagoons such as Bluefields (50 Km2), Top Lock
(30.40 Km2), Sunny (29 Km2), and Big Lagoon (12.26 Km2). Within the boundaries of the
rivers and lagoons, the people fish and hunt for crocodiles, alligators, turtles, and many
other marine species.
Islands and Keys:There are two main islands in the southern region, Big and
Little Corn Islands, which are inhabited by indigenous people. The keys differ only by
inhabitants. The most important keys inhabited by people are the King's Key, Kakabila and
Rama Key. The Pearl Keys, Iguana, Man on War, French, and Pigeon Keys are inhabited by
The islands and keys are important to the indigenous inhabitants' economy-artisan
fishing- on account of the many marine species that contribute to the economic tides of
the communities. The statutes of the constitutional Autonomous Government proclaim that "all
communal lands are inalienable, they can not be donated, sold, garnished nor encumbered,
and they are imprescriptible." Nevertheless, there exist serious problems
with our islands and keys: people who do not belong to the indigenous communities squat
Moreover, in April 1997 it was published in the weekly newspaper Sunrise of Bluefields
that Peter Tsokos purchased Lime Key, Water Key, Grape key, Vincent Key, Baboon Key and
Wild Cane Key-keys that belong to the indigenous communities of Tasbapauni, Pearl Lagoon
and Bluefields-from the Taylor (descendants of the Misquitu Chief), Kirkland, Hooker, and
Jackson families. Neither the central or autonomous government, under the rule of the
national political parties, enforces the laws or defends the peoples' rights. We, the
indigenous people, shall take the case to the Supreme Court of Justice.
2 The National Assembly of the Republic of Nicaragua, Statutes of the
Region of Eastern Nicaragua. Annex No 5, page. sec 36,1, 1987.
Main Land:The main lands of the region are naturally separated according to sea
level. The areas of lower and intermediate grounds are subjected to a constant hydrologic
cycle-salt spray-from the Caribbean Sea. The lowland areas are good for forestry and
include the indigenous communities of Punta Gorda, Monkey Point, El Bluff, Set Net,
Tasbapauni, Sandy Bay Sirpi, and Rio Grande Bar. The intermediate areas include the
indigenous communities of Sandy Bay Sirpi, Karawala, Kara, Walpa, Marshall Point, Orinoco,
Brown Bank, La Fe, Kakabila, Raitipura, Pearl Lagoon, Haulover, Kukra, Bluefields, Rama
Key, Monkey Point and Punta Gorda. These communities are good to raise cattle and to
cultivate pineapple, rice, and various types of vegetation common to the rainforest
The hilly areas are less humid and are mostly occupied by peasants-many inhabit the
communal lands. These areas have rich soil of both medium and fine texture and are
excellent for cultivating a variety of crops (See map). However, immoderate precipitation
limits agricultural ecology to raise and cultivate the following crops:
Perennial-crops: coffee, cocoa, citrus fruits, African palm, coconut, rubber,
etc. Semi.perennial crops: varieties of grasses,
pineapples, plantains, bananas, etc.
Annual-crops: rice, beans, cassava, coco, yam, yampe, dasheen, etc.
The National Assembly (House of Representatives) of the Republic of Nicaragua in the
fifth consideration, based upon which the Autonomous Government was proclaimed, declares
that the Autonomy Process "will guarantee the right of ownership by
the communities of communal land ... the task of establishing and administering these
municipalities is delegated to the Regional Council Members in accordance with established
tradition." Nevertheless, the main problem between the indigenous people, the
peasants, and the government is the use of the land.
The indigenous people are being pushed off their lands near the lagoons, rivers and sea
by the migratory flow of peasants from the Pacific Coast since 1893. The peasants are
advancing with cattle farms in the sight of the national and autonomous governments, yet
nothing is being done for the demarcation of our communal lands. We, the indigenous
people, demand respect for our communal properties, as given to the private properties,
which are protected by the statutes of the constitution. We are all Nicaraguan;
nonetheless, the peasants are usurping the lands of the indigenous communities.
3 lbid: Statutes of Autonomy. pag XXX, Chapter 5 and pag.
Chapter 2, section 7.
Presently, there are consultations with the international free zones to exploit the
region for tourism and to establish big enterprises especially on communal lands. The
indigenous people, the rightful owners of the lands, are not consulted on these matters.
We consider these maneuvers as criminal acts against the existing laws. However, this does
not mean that in order to bring about development in our communities, we do not see the
need for international investments. As far as we are concerned, there are procedures
already established by the constitution that must be followed if the best results are to
On the other hand, Bluefields does not have a Community Board to oversee the laws
governing its communal properties. The lands are being given away and ''shared-up'' as
national lands by political bureaucrats of the Alcaldia (Mayor's office). A congressional
decree signed on May 24, 1934 declared that "the government of Nicaragua
donated 40,000 (forty thousand) hectares of national land to the indigenous Creole
community of Bluefields." Why don't the people of Bluefields have communal
lands? By the rights granted to the indigenous people through the statute mentioned above,
the political incumbent(s) of the Alcaldia cannot distribute the communal lands as deemed.
What will we, the indigenous people, bequeath to our children? Wake up Bluefields ... Wake
up! We are entitled to communal properties by law.
Forest: The southern region is densely populated with timber and has an
enchantment similar to the fairy tale, Sleepy Hollow. More than 65% of the soil is good
for forestry, and at most 740,000 hectares* are productive land. Thousands of hectares
have been burned for cattle raising. The woods, hills, and valleys are abundant with
natural resources, such as timber, natural herbs, insects, reptiles, birds, and other wild
animals. These resources are crucial to build houses, clinics, schools, manufacture
furniture, and stimulate trade-exportation and importation of goods and services.
Timber: mahogany, cortes, coyote, areno,rosewood,school, cedar, mojo, etc.
Fruits:mangos, oranges, mamey,
papayas, pineapples, plums, bananas, etc.Birds:pigeons, parrots, hawks, ravens, vultures, sicla, whistling-pili,
etc. Herbs:dandelion, john charles, vervain, hyssop, catnip, cow-foot, woodworm, etc.Wild Animals: deer, tigers, black panthers, wild pigs, armadillos, opossums, etc.
Snakes: babaspols, tamigaffes, red and black corals, plapantayas,
etc.Reptiles:iguanas, crocodiles, alligators, etc.
4 The Managua Gazette, N.D. Thursday 26, 1933. Year XXXVl, N°
20, pp 153 & 151. The Republic of Nicaragua. *Lopez Mario: State of art forestry in
Nicaragua. Managua April 1997.
The Autonomous Laws state as a right of the people, "
the rational (controlled) extraction of natural resources, such as precious metal, stones,
forestry, fishery and any other natural resources of the Autonomous regions, it is here
hereby acknowledged that the proprietary right on communal properties is vested unto its
inhabitants, and as such, the benefits of its exploitation, shall be just and shall insure
proportionally to the benefit of its communities pursuant to agreements between the
Regional and National Government."
In 1988, Hurricane Joan destroyed more than 250 thousand hectares of timber, displaced
the wild life, and decimated the fishing grounds; consequently, it affected the
productivity and living conditions of the inhabitants. Despite this fact and the extant
laws, year after year, our natural resources are indiscriminately exploited and sold to
the international markets without any revenue for the people of the region. It is like
living in the world of Saint Exupery's Little Prince, "
Serpent wrapped around the little Prince's ankle like a golden bracelet: I shall answer to
the question said the Serpent, and they remained silent."