HISTORICAL PROCESS OF THE AUTONOMOUS GOVERNMENT.
The national state in Nicaragua is indivisible. Nonetheless, the history of the
Atlantic Coast differs considerably from the Pacific
Coast. English colonialism and the North American companies developed a socioeconomic
formation on the Atlantic Coast different from the Pacific Coast because of the intention
to build an interoceanic canal through the Nicaraguan territory. The aspects of this
formation and the war of 1979 brought forth the process-the rebirth-of the Autonomous
Governments on the Atlantic Coast to unite the national state.
The intended interoceanic canal would link the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in
Nicaragua (See world map). The cheap labor in this sub-developed region implied that a
greater supply and larger volume of commodities could be moved at a faster pace and lower
cost to the world markets.
The fight for the interoceanic route between England and Spain during the colonial
period and England and the United States of North America at the wake of the 20th Century
brought fourth the development of two different socioeconomic formations in this Central
American country. First, on the Pacific Coast with Spanish colonialism (1520-1821) and the
enslavement of the indigenous people, an agro-exportation economy based on a class society
(1821-1979)-the foundation of the national state in Nicaragua-was developed. Second, on
the Atlantic Coast with English colonialism (1633-1860) and the enslavement of African
Indigenous people in the plantations, an enclave economy emerged based on a class society
(1860-1979) which interacted with the North American markets and not with the national
agro-exportation economy. During both periods the communal modes of production ware
In 1861, the first Autonomous Government was established on the Atlantic Coast with
the signing of the Managua Treaty between England and the Republic of
Nicaragua-independent from Spain since 1821 and under the protection of the United States
of North America. The National Assembly of Nicaragua did not ratify the treaty, and the
Autonomous Government was dissolved in 1894. The same year, the Atlantic Coast was
incorporated to the national state of Nicaragua; nonetheless, the region still depended on
North American companies for work.
Notwithstanding, the Autonomous Government on the Atlantic Coast resurged within the
national state with the impetus of the Revolution (1979), and it is now proclaimed a
constitutional right of the nation. The Constitution of Nicaragua in its statutes of
Autonomy states: "
to guarantee the right of Eastern Nicaraguans to
preserve their heritage, religious beliefs, art, and cultural values, the right to use and
enjoy their waters, forestry and communal lands; the right to create special programs that
may lead to the effective fulfillment and development of these rights; the right of its
people to organize in groups and to live in accordance with their legitimate cultural,
social and traditional heritage." (Constitution of Nicaragua, paragraphs
8, 11, 49, 89, 90, 91,121, 180 and l81).18
The Constitution of the Republic of Nicaragua also proclaims in the statutes of
Autonomy that to achieve national unity, "It will guarantee to the people
of the Atlantic Coast the right of association which shall be the basis upon which this
nation will strengthen its national unity." Nevertheless, our people are
forced to live in extreme poverty on account of the communal modes of production.
Furthermore, only a few organizations genuinely represent the indigenous people in the
Autonomous Government, which is control by the national political parties with strong
influence of the agro-exportation economy. Despite the laws and the autonomous process,
the political parties do not consider the Autonomous Government as the means to unite the
national state in Nicaragua.
A. THE PRE-COLUMBIAN PERIOD (pre 1633)
Dr. John Wilson, the Moravian Bishop, affirms that various cultural currents took roots
in Nicaragua: The Nahoa or Nahualt, the Maya- Quiche and the Chibcha.
When Cristobal Colon arrived to the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua in 1502, the
predominant indigenous inhabitants were the Misquitus who linguistically pertain to the
Chibcha family. The Sumus aborigines were also related to the Chibcha culture and the
Ramas to the Chibcha-arawac group. These tribes lived naturally off the land: hunting,
fishing, and the collection of plants and fruits for food.
The British colonization of the Atlantic Coast (1633) and the development of the
enclave economy by North American Companies (1860) ceased all further independent growth
of the tribal organizations.
18 Ibid: Statutes of Autonomy, pag, VIII consideration. 19 lbid:
Statutes of Autonomy, pag, V consideration. 20 Wilson John. 1975: Pag. 72.
B. THE BRITISH PROTECTORATE OF THE MISKITU INDIANS. (1633 - 1905)
The latter part of the 15th Century and the first half of the 17th Century revealed a
new world to the Europeans. The gold mines in America-the New World-and the sea route to
India were discovered because of the development and expansion of manufactured goods.
These new discoveries expanded Christianity; but most of all, they increased competition
among the colonial powers. Moreover, war escalated between the kingdoms of Spain, Holland,
France, Portugal, Italy and England for control of the commercial and interoceanic routes,
commerce with the colonies, and greater ties to the world markets.
Pope Alexander Borgia VI had divided America between Portugal and Spain with the
signing of the Tordecilla Treaty on June 7, 1494. However, the English naval victory over
Spain in the Battle of the Grand Armada in 1588 gave great impetus to Protestantism and
the commerce of England on the Caribbean Sea and North and Central America.
Spain and England waged war for the interoceanic route through Nicaragua, Central
America to shorten the voyage to the world markets. Spain had colonized the Pacific Coast
and claimed the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua since 1520. However, the Puritans , the first
English colonizers shielded by pirates , arrived to the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua in
1633 from Providence island in the Caribbean Sea. They bartered guns, machetes, axes,
cloths, beads, and mirrors with the Miskitu Indians in exchange for cacao, dyewoods, India
rubber, sarsaparilla, animal skins, and turtle shells.
21 The Grand Armada: In 1588 before Queen Mary died, she formally
bequeathed her claims on the English Crown to Phillip of Spain ... the English had flouted
his power and plundered his towns in the New World; beheaded a catholic Queen; had
encouraged and assisted the revolted Netherlands; and the English were Protestants. For
these offenses. . . the invincible armada was being collected in every port on the Spanish
coast. Simultaneously a powerful army had been mustered in the Netherlands, this army was
to cross over into England as soon the Armada was master of the English channel. However,
Sir Francis Drake swooped upon one of its divisions, which lay in the Cadiz Harbor (1587)
and delayed the sailing of the armada for a year. With the defeat of the Grand
Armada in the English Channel, Phillip's supremacy in Europe was over. (A School History
of England and Great Britain, 1939: Page 246)
Despite the Spanish protest, the English Crown established a colony on the Atlantic
Coast based upon two different modes of production that would complement each other.
First, the capitalist mode of production, the colonist brought the
African indigenous people to work as slaves to accrue surplus in the sugar cane, cotton,
and indigo plantations, and especial-ly to cut mahogany and logwood. The products
(commodities) were traded with other English colonies in North America, the Caribbean Sea,
Second, the communal mode of production, the colonist did not enslave
the indigenous people of the Atlantic coast, which was the principal method to accumulate
surplus- during the colonial period. In 1720, the Misquito Indians surrendered their
country to the King of England in the British colony of Jamaica. The governor of Jamaica
crowned the chief of the Miskitu tribe as "king" and declared the Miskitu
Indians territory as an independent "nation" under the protection of the British
Crown; whereupon, England could legitimately claim control over the interoceanic route.
The colonist organized the tribes, lead by the Miskitu Indians, and defended the
protectorate against the Spanish Crown.
In 1786, the signing of the Convention Treaty between Her Britannic Majesty and the
King of Spain in London brought the English Protectorate of the Miskitu Indians to a
national question in England:
23 The Puritans: a radical group came first, the small band of Pilgrims
who founded Plymouth in 1620. They were pour and humble and devout cobblers, tailors,
Ten years later came the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, a
large band of conservative puritans led by gentry, wealthy merchants, and university
graduates. During these years(1620-1640) the Puritans spread along the coast from Maine
almost to what is now Suburban New York. By 1640 Virginia had 8,000 white people, New
England had 14,000 chiefly in Massachusetts. (Forester Norman,1957: Page 7) a) Troy S.
Floyd, 1967: Page 21. B) Marx Karl: Direct slavery is the basement of modern
industrialization, machinery, etc. Without slaves there is no cotton and without cotton
modern industrialization would not be possible. It was direct slavery that gave value to
the colonies, and these created the worldwide commerce; the latter at the same time is a
necessary condition for the development of mechanized industrialization at a big scale.
Before they began to traffic black people; the colonies only provided the old world with a
few products, and no changes occurred in the extension of the land's productivity, our
emphasis. Therefore, slavery is an outstanding economic category. (1958:22)
22 The Pirates: During this time, the pirates (spearheads of the
colonial nations to conquer new territories) used the islands, keys, lagoons and rivers
for a hideout to break the Spanish Crown's power and commercial activities in the
Caribbean Sea. English history points out how Sir Francis Drake (a hero to the English and
a pirate to the Spanish) between l572 and 1580 was busy burning Spanish settlements and
pillaging in the New World. (Ibid: A School History, Page 244).
25 Morgan observed, that: "The Spanish conquerors that took over
Mexico, erroneously sustained the theory that the indigenous government?the Aztecs
government?was analogous in its essential aspects to the European Monarchy. The first
Spanish writers without thoroughly investigating the structure and principles of the
Aztecs social system in general embraced this opinion. The Aztecs and their confederated
tribes did not know iron; therefore they did not know the implements that derived from it.
They did not have money, so commerce was based on the exchange of goods. Nevertheless,
they worked native metals and cultivated the land by means of irrigation. They also made
their from cotton, constructed communal houses made of clay or rock, and made things out
of metal of excellent quality. The possession of the land was still communal, and they
lived in big homes made up of a number of families related among them and there is a good
reason to believe that they practiced communism in their homes. It can be assumed as a
logical assertion that they only prepared one meal a day, and this they ate separately:
first men, then women and children. Since they did not dispose of tables and chairs; they
did not learn to consume their only daily meal as in the civilized nations. These are
enough traces to see the relative development of their social conditions. Together with
the Indians from other district of Mexico, Central America and Peru, the Aztecs is the
best model of this state of ancient society that still existed on earth during that time.
Morgan (Pages 232-233). The Miskitu is a tribal organization (not a kingdom) and the
crowing of the Chief as "king" is just the means by which the English justified
to the other countries,
the existence of a "nation" under their
protection to be able to stay on the Sea-canal. We can read from: 1) The pirates:"
The buccaneer accounts thus apply to the Rio Coco, Cape Gracias, and the immediate
adjacent coast. They describe the native population as living in small-scattered groups,
each composed of several families, camping more or less semi-nomadically along the
seashore and rivers. Open-sided thatched huts provided shelter. Land and sea mammals, fish
and turtles, various wild fruits and small planting of bananas, plantain, maize, and
sugarcane provided subsistence. Social equality and the lack of any kind of specifically
political structure were noted. Several dialects were differentiated, and those who spoke
the same dialect apparently considered themselves as a unit against all others. There may
have been as many as ten or more such groups throughout the Coast. Periodic warfare seems
to have obtained among them... (Dampier 1703:31-37; M.W. 1732; Esquemeling 1893: Chap. 8;
de Lussan 1930:280/88; cf. Helms 1969b). Helms Page 15. 2) The British Crown: "From
the latter part of the seventeenth century, at which time, through the Duke of Albemarle
as Governor of Jamaica, the Mosquito Indians made cession of the sovereignty of their
country to the King of England, where upon a commission, under the Great Seal of Jamaica,
was issued to their Chief as "King." British case. Page 2; Papers relating to
the Arbitration of His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Austria in the Differences between
the Government of Her Britannic Majesty and the Government of the Republic of Nicaragua
respecting the interpretation of certain Articles of the Treaty of Managua, signed on the
28th of January, 1860 page 22, Printed by Harrison and son, London, 1881. (Known as the
Miskitu Documents); and 3) From the Miskitu Chief Henry Clarence: " Your Memorialist
does not pretend to claim the sovereignty of the soil but the heredity rights; and,
according to the custom of various tribes, they used the word King, which is merely
nominal, and cannot be eradicated from them." British Case, Annex Page 3.