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Bluefields bay.JPG
Bluefields and Bluefields Bay (Bahia de Bluefields)
Seal of Bluefields.svg
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Coordinates: 12°0′N83°45′W / 12.000°N 83.750°W / 12.000; -83.750
CountryFlag of Nicaragua.svg  Nicaragua
Autonomous Region South Caribbean Autonomous Region
Municipality Bluefields
   Mayor Gustavo Castro
  Municipality4,775 km2 (1,844 sq mi)
25 m (82 ft)
 (2021 estimate) [1]
  Density12/km2 (31/sq mi)
Time zone UTCGMT-6
Climate Af

Bluefields is the capital of the South Caribbean Autonomous Region in Nicaragua. It was also the capital of the former Kingdom of Mosquitia, and later the Zelaya Department, which was divided into North and South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Regions. It is located on Bluefields Bay at the mouth of the Bluefields River in the municipality of the same name.


It was named after Abraham Blauvelt, a Dutch-Jewish pirate, privateer, and explorer of Central America and the western Caribbean. [2] [3] It has a population of 55,575 (2021 estimate) [4] and its inhabitants are mostly Afro-descendant Creoles, Miskitu, Mestizo, as well as smaller communities of Garinagu, Chinese, Mayangna, and Rama. Bluefields is the chief Caribbean port, from which hardwood, seafood, shrimp and lobster are exported. Bluefields was a rendezvous for European buccaneers in the 16th and 17th century and became capital of the English protectorate of the Kingdom of Mosquitia in 1678.

During United States interventions (1912–15, 1926–33) in Nicaragua, US Marines were stationed there. In 1984, the United States mined the harbor (along with those of Corinto and Puerto Sandino) as part of the Nicaraguan Revolution. Bluefields was destroyed by Hurricane Joan in 1988 but was rebuilt.


The origin of the city of Bluefields is connected with the presence of European pirates on the Nicaraguan Caribbean coast, subjects of powers at the time hostile to Spain. These pirates used the Escondido River to rest, to repair damages and to be provisioned. By then, the territory of the present municipality was populated by the native towns of Kukra and Branch.

In 1602, one of these soldiers of fortune chose the bay of Bluefields as his center of operations due to its tactical advantages, a Dutchman named Abraham Blauvelt, and from the phonetic sounding of his surname originates the name of the municipality.

Black Africans first appeared in the Caribbean coast in 1641, when a Portuguese ship that was transporting slaves wrecked in the Miskito Cays. From the original settlement the bay began to be populated; the English subjects first started emigrating to the region in 1633 and from 1666 they were already organized into colonies, and by 1705 there were authorities established. In 1730 the Kingdom of Moskitia came to depend on the British administration in Jamaica. For this, an alliance with the Miskito people was decisive, and the British supplied them with armaments which the Miskito used in conflicts with the other ethnic groups of the Caribbean coast—the Afro-descendant Creoles and the indigenous Mayangnas, Ulwas, and Ramas.

In 1740, the Miskitos yielded to British sovereignty over the territory, and in 1744 a transfer of White colonists was organized from Jamaica to the Kingdom of Moskitia; they brought along with them black slaves. French colonists were also installed. The area was a British protectorate until 1796, when Britain, with an offer from the Spanish Monarch to extend the territory in the Yucatán Peninsula for the cutting of logwood for the British settlers, decided to remove all English settlers from the Kingdom of Moskitia; the British subjects also abandoned the islands, but the Spaniards did not take firm positions in them.

With the independence of the Viceroyalty of New Granada, the Kingdom of Moskitia became de jure part of Gran Colombia until its dissolution in 1831. Thereafter it became part of the Republic of New Granada, now Colombia, until, through the Esguerra-Bárcenas Treaty, the Colombian state formally ceded the territory to Nicaragua.

The Moravian Church was installed in 1847, and in 1860 through the Harrison-Altamirano Treaty, mostly known as the Treaty of Managua, the Miskito Reserve was created from the territory of the Kingdom of Moskitia, by an agreement between the British and Nicaragua government. The city of Bluefields was declared capital of that Reserve.

The “Europeanization” of the natives was completed by the 1880s, when British and Americans expanded the production of bananas and wood, creating an enclave economy; by the 1880 Bluefields was already a city of cosmopolitan character, with an intense commercial activity.

Economic growth also brought a marked process of social differentiation, by which the races and ethnic groups were distributed spatially and in terms of work: the white population represented the interests of the foreign businesses; those of mixed race worked as artisans and in working-class occupations; the darker-skinned Creoles had their niche in physical work, and the native population were employed as servants and for other smaller works. In 1894, the government of Nicaragua incorporated the Miskito Reserve into the national territory, extinguishing the Miskito monarchy, and on October 11, 1903, Bluefields was proclaimed capital of the Department of Zelaya.

In recent years, however, due to US Coast Guard patrols attempting to intercept Colombian drug smugglers, cocaine (often referred to locally as "white lobster") has become an important part of the local economy. When threatened with potential boarding by US Coast Guard ships, cocaine smugglers try to dispose of their illegal cargo by throwing it overboard, simultaneously lightening their load for a faster escape and eliminating the evidence in case of capture. A percentage of the cocaine bales used to be carried by ocean currents into the lagoon around Bluefields. Residents may find the bales washed up on the beach or seek them by boat in the lagoon or at sea. In recent years this is not that common any more due to stricter legislation.

Bluefields remains a deeply impoverished city with extremely high rates of unemployment.


According to Köppen climate classification, Bluefields features a trade-wind tropical rainforest climate (Köppen Af). There is a drier period from February to April, but the trade winds ensure that unlike the Pacific coast of Nicaragua, rain still falls frequently during this period. For the rest of the year when tropical low pressure dominates rainfall is extremely heavy, helped by the coast being shaped in such a manner as to intercept winds from the south as prevail during the northern summer.

Climate data for Bluefields, Nicaragua
Average high °C (°F)27.8
Daily mean °C (°F)24.9
Average low °C (°F)22.2
Average rainfall mm (inches)218
Average rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm)191310101523262521212022225
Source: HKO [5]


The city is located beside the eponymous bay; consisting of 17 neighborhoods including the port of El Bluff, located on a peninsula of the same name. Due to gradual erosion, the peninsula is becoming a true island that closes the Bay of Bluefields on the east side. El Bluff has an extension of 1.29 km² and it is about 8 km from Bluefields.

Urban Bluefields street scene Bluefields street.JPG
Urban Bluefields street scene
Bluefields rural waterfront homes Bluefields waterfront homes.JPG
Bluefields rural waterfront homes

Bluefields has several municipal headquarters and rural communities including:

Urban Level: Santa Rosa, Central, San Mateo, Pointeen, Fátima, Tres Cruces, Ricardo Morales, Old Bank, San Pedro, Teodoro Martínez, 19 de Julio, Pancasán, Punta Fría, New York, Beholden, Canal, Loma Fresca.

Rural Level: Cuenca Río Escondido, Cuenca Río Maíz, San Nicolás, La Fonseca, Rama Cay, San Luís, Caño Frijol, Torsuani, Long Beach, Dalzuno, Cuenca Río Indio, Río Maíz, Guana Creek, Nueva Chontales, Neysi Ríos, La Palma, Sub-Cuenca Mahagony, Krisinbila, Sub-Cuenca Caño Negro, Río Kama, El Bluff, Las Mercedes, Monkey Point, El Corozo, Cuenca Punta Gorda, Caño Dalzuno, Haulover, Villa Hermosa, San Ramón, Río Cama (El Cilicio), San Brown, La Virgen, San Mariano, La Pichinga, Musulaine, Caño Blanco, Aurora (San Francisco), Kukra River (Delirio), Barra Punta Gorda, Kukra River.


There are currently two universities in Bluefields. One is the Bluefields campus of the University of the Autonomous Regions of the Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast, and the other is the Bluefields Indian and Caribbean University (BICU). [6]

Transportation and infrastructure

Until recently, there was no road access to Bluefields from the west coast of Nicaragua. There is now a highway from Nueva Guinea with regular bus service. The road was completed in May 2019, and was financed with loans from the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank. The road was formally declared open by President Daniel Ortega. [7]

Visitors usually either fly in to Bluefields Airport or take a bus from Managua and other cities or take a Panga down the Rio Escondido from the city of El Rama, which itself is accessible from Managua by bus.[ citation needed ] In the town, taxis are readily available at a fixed price of 14 cordobas per person (2020) and work on a shared basis. The municipal wharf is the home of commercial boat traffic to Corn Island, LaBarra and many other locations which are only accessible by boat. Car ownership is very limited in Bluefields.

The municipal government does not provide all necessary services, so additional services related to water, energy, and sanitation are provided by non-governmental organization BlueEnergy.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nicaragua</span> Country in Central America

Nicaragua, officially the Republic of Nicaragua, is the largest country in Central America, bordered by Honduras to the north, the Caribbean to the east, Costa Rica to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Managua is the country's capital and largest city. As of 2015, it was estimated to be the second largest city in Central America. Nicaragua's multiethnic population of six million includes people of mestizo, indigenous, European and African heritage. The main language is Spanish. Indigenous tribes on the Mosquito Coast speak their own languages and English.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Geography of Nicaragua</span> Geographical features of Nicaragua

Nicaragua is a country in Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, between Costa Rica and Honduras. Nicaragua is the largest country in Central America in square kilometers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mosquito Coast</span> Coastline in Central America

The Mosquito Coast, also known as the Mosquitia or Mosquito Shore, historically included the area along the eastern coast of present-day Nicaragua and Honduras. It formed part of the Western Caribbean Zone. It was named after the local Miskitu Nation and was long dominated by British interests and known as the Mosquito Kingdom. From 1860 suzerainty of the area was transferred to Nicaragua with the name Mosquito Reserve, and in November 1894 the Mosquito Coast was militarily incorporated into Nicaragua. However, in 1960, the northern part was granted to Honduras by the International Court of Justice.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region</span> Autonomous region of Nicaragua

The South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region is one of two autonomous regions in Nicaragua. It covers an area of 27,260 km2 (10,530 sq mi) and has a population of 420,935. The capital is Bluefields. Bordering the Caribbean Sea, it contains part of the region known as the Mosquito Coast.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nicaraguans</span> People of Nicaragua

Nicaraguans are people inhabiting in, originating or having significant heritage from Nicaragua. Most Nicaraguans live in Nicaragua, although there is also a significant Nicaraguan diaspora, particularly in the United States and Costa Rica with smaller communities in other countries around the world. There are also people living in Nicaragua who are not Nicaraguans because they were not born or raised in Nicaragua nor have they gained citizenship.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">La Mosquitia (Honduras)</span>

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Misumalpan languages</span> Language family of Nicaragua and Honduras

The Misumalpan languages are a small family of languages spoken by indigenous peoples on the east coast of Nicaragua and nearby areas. The name "Misumalpan" was devised by John Alden Mason and is composed of syllables from the names of the family's three members Miskito, Sumo languages and Matagalpan. It was first recognized by Walter Lehmann in 1920. While all the languages of the Matagalpan branch are now extinct, the Miskito and Sumu languages are alive and well: Miskito has almost 200,000 speakers and serves as a second language for speakers of other indigenous languages in the Mosquito Coast. According to Hale, most speakers of Sumu also speak Miskito.

Mískito Coast Creole or Nicaragua Creole English is an English-based creole language spoken in coastal Nicaraguan region of Mosquito Coast on the Caribbean Sea; its approximately 18,000 speakers are spread over a number of small villages. The region is today administratively separated into two autonomous regions: North Caribbean Coast and South Caribbean Coast. Mosquito is the nickname that is given to the region and earlier residents by early Europeans who visited and settled in the area. The term "Miskito" is now more commonly used to refer to both the people and the language.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Miskito language</span> Misumalpan language spoken in Honduras and Nicaragua

Miskito is a Misumalpan language spoken by the Miskito people in northeastern Nicaragua, especially in the North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region, and in eastern Honduras.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">El Rama</span> Municipality in South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region, Nicaragua

Rama is a municipality and a city in the South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region of Nicaragua.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pearl Lagoon</span> Municipality in South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region, Nicaragua

Pearl Lagoon is a municipality that is often time called just Lagoon and was historically known as English Bank. It is located in the South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region of Nicaragua. It is the most important town of the largest coastal lagoon also by the name of Pearl Lagoon in the South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region of Nicaragua and which the name of the town is derived from. As of 2021, Pearl Lagoon Municipality had a population of 20,557.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Corn Islands</span> Municipality in South Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region, Nicaragua

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mayangna people</span>

The Mayangna are a people who live on the eastern coasts of Nicaragua and Honduras, an area commonly known as the Mosquito Coast. Their preferred autonym is Mayangna, as the name "Sumo" is a derogatory name historically used by the Miskito people. Their culture is closer to that of the indigenous peoples of Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia than to the Mesoamerican cultures to the north. The Mayangna inhabited much of the Mosquito Coast in the 16th century. Since then, they have become more marginalized following the emergence of the Miskito as a regional power.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Index of Nicaragua-related articles</span>

The following is an alphabetical list of topics related to Nicaragua.

The official language of Nicaragua is Spanish; however, Nicaraguans on the Caribbean coast speak indigenous languages and also English. The communities located on the Caribbean coast also have access to education in their native languages. Additionally, Nicaragua has four extinct indigenous languages.

The western Caribbean zone is a region consisting of the Caribbean coasts of Central America and Colombia, from the Yucatán Peninsula in southern Mexico to the Caribbean region in northern Colombia, and the islands west of Jamaica are also included. The zone emerged in the late sixteenth century as the Spanish failed to completely conquer many sections of the coast, and northern European powers supported opposition to Spain, sometimes through alliances with local powers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kukra River</span> River in Nicaragua

The Kukra River is a river of Nicaragua. It lies in the southeast of the country and is inhabited by two Rama communities and various mestizo settler communities. Much of the river falls within the Rama-Kriol Territory and is thus within the jurisdiction of the Rama-Kriol Territorial Government. It is located south of Bluefields and empties in Bluefields Bay.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Afro-Nicaraguans</span> Nicaraguans of African descent

Afro-Nicaraguans are Nicaraguans of Sub-Saharan African descent. Five main distinct ethnic groups exist: The Creoles who descend from Anglo-Caribbean countries and many of whom still speak Nicaragua English Creole, the Miskito Sambus descendants of Spanish slaves and indigenous Central Americans who still speak Miskito and/or Miskito Coast Creole, the Garifunas descendents of Zambos expelled from St. Vincent who speak Garifuna, the Rama Cay zambos a subset of the Miskito who speak Rama Cay Creole, and the descendants of those enslaved by the Spanish.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">House of Miskito</span> Noble family of Central America

The House of Miskito, also called the Miskitu or the Miskut, was a noble family from the Miskito coast and who came to reign over part of the current territories of the Atlantic Caribbean coast of Honduras and Nicaragua between 1687 and 1894, under the kingdom of the Mosquitia. Which happened to become a protectorate of the British Empire by 1687, and was one of the last existing ruling monarchies in America.


  1. Population of departments and municipalities in Nicaragua
  2. Cwik, Christian (2019). "Displaced Minorities: The Wayuu and Miskito People". The Palgrave Handbook of Ethnicity. pp. 1593–1609. doi:10.1007/978-981-13-2898-5_117. ISBN   978-981-13-2897-8.
  3. Leonardi, Richard (2001). Nicaragua Handbook: The Travel Guide. Footprint Travel Guides. p. 248. ISBN   1-903471-14-1.
  4. Population of cities in Nicaragua
  5. "Climatological Normals of Bluefields, Nicaragua". Hong Kong Observatory. Archived from the original on 2015-07-02. Retrieved 2012-03-13.
  7. "BNamericas - Nicaragua completes Bluefields-Nueva Guinea ..." Retrieved 2020-01-26.
  8. Burden, W. Douglas (1956). Look to the Wilderness. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. pp. 197–245.

Coordinates: 12°00′N83°45′W / 12.000°N 83.750°W / 12.000; -83.750