Bluefields, Nicaragua hidden jewel. I want to introduce you to a city on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua called Bluefields. Bluefields is one of the most interesting places in the world. It’s not for the faint, but if you love outback adventure, the sea, and exotic travel, this is the place for you.
Bluefields was named after the Dutch pirate Abraham Blauvelt, who used the area as a hideout in the early 1600’s. Rumor has it that he buried gold and treasure somewhere in the area. Personally, I think the gold is in the people. Bluefields and the surrounding region consist of different peoples including the Mestizo, Creole, Garifuna, Mayangna, Rama, and Spaniards. Where else can one go to see so many different cultures in one city? Throughout you can hear conversations in English, Spanish, and the ancient Miskito language. The Creole and Garifuna are of African descent.
Let’s go back for a bit of history. The Caribbean Coast of Central America has over one million black folks mostly unknown to those living in North America. Many are descendants of runaway slaves from British colonies in the West Indies and survivors of shipwrecks. Thousands more arrived with the British during the colonial occupation from Jamaica in the 1700’s and worked on various plantations and gold mines.
The Mosquito (indigenous Indian) territory along the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua was explored by Columbus in 1502. Bluefields was the home of the first recorded Miskito king in 1687. His name was “Jeremy the First” who was a Creole. Creoles are mixed descendants of blacks and Miskito Indians. The Miskito kingdom became a British protectorate from 1740 to 1816. In 1816, another Miskito King was crowned, George Frederick the Second, who assured the Atlantic Coast people that they would remain a separate and sovereign part of Central American and that Spain and Nicaragua would have no claim. In 1860, the Treaty of Managua mapped out the Miskito peoples reservation, 7000 square miles of autonomous Atlantic Coastal territory. At the signing both the Nicaraguan and British governments dropped all claims to the region. Afterward, North Americans entered the region with logging, mining and banana exportation interest.
In 1816, another Miskito King was crowned, George Frederick the Second, who assured the Atlantic Coast people they would remain a separate and sovereign part of Central American and Spain and Nicaragua would have no claim. In 1860, the Treaty of Managua mapped out the Miskito people's reservation, 7000 square miles of autonomous Atlantic Coastal territory. At the signing of the treaty both Nicaraguan and British governments dropped all claims to the region. Afterward, North Americans entered the region with logging, mining, and banana exportation interest.
In 1894, life changed on the Atlantic Coast. On February 12th directed by then Nicaraguan President José Santos Zelaya, Bluefields was invaded by the Nicaraguan Army. As a result, the Atlantic Coast Miskito territory was annexed (taken by conquest) by Nicaragua.
By 1909, President Zelaya turned dictator sparking an armed rebellion and revolution by the Creoles in the Atlantic Coastal region and others throughout the nation. Zelaya was overthrown and to prevent his followers from regaining power in the coastal region US Marines entered Bluefields in 1910 until 1925. Civil unrest continued in Nicaragua between the Liberals and the Conservatives setting the stage for a revolt against the Conservatives by Augusto Sandino and followers 1927 to 1934 who organized an army of peasants, farmers, and Indians.
Civil unrest continued in Nicaragua between the Liberals and the Conservatives setting the stage for a revolt against the Conservatives by Augusto Sandino and followers 1927 to 1934 who organized an army of peasants, farmers, and Indians.
Because of commercial interest in the region, the United States helped Nicaragua set up a National Guard to assist Juan Bautista Sacasa, who was inaugurated as president in 1933. He was later forced to resign by the leader of the National Guard Anastasio Somoza, who named himself as president.
Sandino considered President Sacasa an instrument of North American economic imperialism. He was ambushed and murdered during amnesty talks by Somoza’s National Guard in 1934. In 1935, US troops left the country. The revolutionary spirit of Sandino lives on as a Nicaraguan national icon against foreign exploitation. You can see his black towering likeness on a hill as you drive through downtown Managua.
Somoza, once a translator for US Military advisers in Nicaragua, was considered a political friend of the United States who looked after his self-serving dictatorial interest and North American business concerns. The Somoza family ruled Nicaragua until 1979 when Communists Sandinista militants, led by Daniel Ortega, overthrew the government through force. They ruled from 1979 to 1990. All this took place while the issues of the Atlantic Coast were mostly ignored.
In 1987 the Autonomy Statute, Law 28, was introduced to resolve continuing territorial disputes of the indigenous people of the Caribbean Coast. That law was written into the Nicaraguan Constitution agreeing with the rights of the Caribbean Coast to self-determination, control of access to natural resources, and education of its children in indigenous languages. It also mapped out two political regions, the Northern Autonomous Region and the Southern Autonomous Region. Bluefields is the largest city in the Southern Autonomous Region.
TRAVELING TO BLUEFIELDS
The best way to go to Bluefields is by plane from Managua, the capital city of Nicaragua. When you arrive, you will be greeted by smiling faces happy to make your visit one to remember. Every time I go, Jerry Lewis, a friendly native with a pearly smile greets me at the airport and carries my bags to an awaiting taxi. The first time I met him we prayed God’s blessings on his life. I have been working in the area with local churches and leaders advancing the Gospel of Christ, helping supply medicines, working with an orphanage and school. In 2005, I spoke by invitation from the cities pastors and local leaders at the National Day of the Bible in front of the government building to several thousand people. Afterward, we joined a colorful parade throughout the city with church groups, city leaders, and the Moravian church’s marching band. It was a hot day, and people brought umbrellas to shield them from the sun. At every turn, we stopped while various local pastors read Scripture and led corporate prayer for God’s blessings over the city. I had never seen such Christian unity in any other city in the world. Later that week we prayed with the mayor, his staff, and others. Local pastors and churches joined with us to organize large open-air nightly meetings, and the city was kind enough to lend us the baseball stadium at no charge. Over a thousand people accepted Jesus as their personal savior.
When you first visit Bluefields, you will be surprised to discover that most people speak English. They will also want you to know of their multifaceted culture, taste their local cuisines, and admire the adventurous feeling the city provides. The people of Bluefields don’t have much, but they are a proud bunch. They will do everything they can to make you feel welcomed.
One of the interesting places to experience is the local wharf. There you will see hundreds of boats arriving continually bringing travelers and goods from up and down the coast to shop, trade or travel on their way to other locations. You can also catch a boat for a day trip to Rama Cay and pay a visit to a tribe of people full of life. The Rama’s are known as the best mariners on the coast. Maybe they will show you some tricks. For the true adventurer, you can spend the night in the newly built thatched roof hotel. As you walk around the Island, say hello to Brother Cleveland, pastor of the Moravian Church. Several times he rowed his dory from the Island to join me in some gospel meetings.
Moving around the city of Bluefields is smooth with plenty of reasonably priced taxies. Across from the Kings Park in the town center is a great place to buy piping hot homemade coconut bread. The owner took me in the kitchen for a grand tour and up close aromas of fresh baking bread. Down at the bay you can order one of my favorite dishes, rondon soup. This is a melody of secret ingredients slow cooked in coconut milk. It’s only available once a week. So don’t pass up a chance to sample some.
Many of the local buildings have an island colonial architecture that adds to that old-world coastal charm. Even the nearby areas are intriguing with names such as Old Bank, Cotton Tree, Beholden, and Pearl Lagoon.
Bluefields is a photographer’s hideaway and an artist’s paradise, especially for you direct painting Plein air enthusiasts. Everywhere you turn you will find interesting subject matter. There are scenes available in Bluefields that you will not find anywhere else in the world. Art supplies are scarce so bring some extra and leave them with the local artists who will surely find you out.
I have met many Afro-Caribbean people in Bluefields that wonder where their black brothers and sisters’ are hiding. Often they ask me to remind folks that they don’t have to go to Africa to discover their roots. Let me encourage you to grab a map, find some folks from Bluefields on the Internet and add Bluefields and the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua to your travel plans.
It’s easy to make friends in Bluefields. There you will find part of an unforgettable culture. Nicaragua is less than 3 hours away from the States and flying to Bluefields is only an hour more. With the time changes, you can leave Miami, Houston, or Atlanta in the morning and enjoy a cool fruit drink in Bluefields the same day. If you like snorkeling, diving, and private beaches you can take a short plane ride over to Corn Island. Lobster is plentiful and the people ready to serve. Spend the night in one of the local bed and breakfast inns and watch the sun rise over the sea the next morning.
Don’t forget that Jesus loves children and loathes poverty. Pray for me as we continue our efforts to help orphans, children, wipe out poverty, provide medical care, leadership training, produce educational materials, and preach the Gospel of Christ. I believe that God has special people in Nicaraguan that just need a little encouragement and empowering. Pack your bags; Bluefields is calling.
(c) Apostle Jonas Clark
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