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Culture

5 Indigenous Peoples of Nicaragua

American Indians (Native Americans) make up about 5% of Nicaragua’s population. Like with most of Latin American history and culture, the indigenous of Nicaragua is often not given the same amount of focus as the Spanish. The following are five indigenous peoples of the Central American nation. Let’s learn about them.

Chorotega

The Chorotegas arrived from southern Mexico (believed to be Chiapas) to the Pacific coast of Nicaragua around 800 or 900 AD. The language (tribes are usually separated by the language they speak) is spoken in Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, and Costa Rica. Masaya, Managua, and Nicoya are all Chorotega (also known as Mangue) words.

M.skitu (aka Miskitu or Miskito)

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Saludes de Bluefields, Group de Miskito Indios en Klah. Group of Miskito Indians in Klah. Postcard. C.1900. Delcampe.net. In this postcard a group of Miskitus are gathered in front of a building. The Miskitu tribe is the largest indigenous group in the Mosquito Coast. The group consists of Miskitus of indigenous and African descent. In 1641 a ship with African slaves was marooned on the Atlantic coast many of the survivors intermarried, had interpersonal relationships and joined the Miskitu tribe. The Sambo-Miskitus became the largest faction of the Miskitus. "Pure" indigenous Miskitus were referred to as Tawira-Miskitus. The term Tawira or Tangeweera mean straight-hair. The Tawira were the small faction of the tribe. The Miskitus pictured maybe Sambo-Miskitu and are Moravian Christian converts based on their dress. Moravian Indigenous and Creole women Christians sometimes wore all white dress, skirt and top ensembles with a white cap as an expression of purity and dedication to Jesus. The Sambo-Miskitus were the earliest indigenous Christian converts. After the Moravian Missionary was established the Tawira and the Sambo Miskitus identified as unified group.

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As of 2016, there were over 180,000 Miskito, in Nicaragua and Honduras. Also known as M.Skitu, Miskitu, Mosquito, Mostique, etc., they inhabit the Mosquito (Miskito) Coast (also known as the Miskito Kingdom), on the Caribbean side of the country. The culture is heavily influenced by African and English contact, with many natives being a mix of either Miskito and African, or Miskito, African, and English.

Ocanxiu or Sutiaba

The Ocanxiu, or Sutiaba (also Sutiava), were originally from Mexico, and settled in the area of Leon in Nicaragua. The Indigenous Sutiava Museum displays artifacts of the tribe, and shares information on various native peoples of the country. The Sutiaba word for sun is ahka.

Rama

The Rama is a Chibchan language spoken by those in on the Caribbean coast (from Bluefields to Greytown) and on Rama Cay in Nicaragua. The Rama word for woman is kuma. Unfortunately, the language is in risk of extinction, as less than 30 elders still speak it.

Mayagna

The Mayagna (also known as Sumo or Sumu, although the preferred name is Mayagna—Sumo is seen as derogatory) inhabit the Mosquito coast of Nicaragua and Honduras. In 2001, the Mayagna Awas Tingni Community sued Nicaragua for the rights to their land. They won the case.

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