The Miskitos are supposed to have their origin in the rainforests of
South America, this is concluded from their language which is very similar
to the dialects of the Chibcha family. The name Miskitos could have been
derived from the word "mosquete", the guns of the British settlers.
The details of their history is not very clear; of course the Miskitos
themselves claim that they have been Miskitos in the region for ever,
but ethnologists and anthropologists have found evidences that the Miskitos
are a mixture of local habitants like Tawahkas with European and African
settlers, having their origin in the 17 century.
The scientist Linda Newson confirmed that historical documents or reports of the time before the Spanish arrival are unknown. The first document involving the Miskitos is dated from the year 1672, where a pirate named Exquemelin described a small community of some 1600 persons. Nine years later another pirate found a group of Miskitos with only some 100 men. They lived in the region of cape "Gracias a Dios" on the border between Honduras and Nicaragua. The diaries of the Nicaraguan archbishop could bring light into the darkness of the evolution of the Miskitos. He described the mixture of the Tawahka Indians with black shipwrecked slaves in the coral reefs of the Miskito Keys since the year 1641. The documents are telling the following:
"In 1641 a ship with black slaves got lost on the north coast between the mouth of the San Juan River, province of Nicaragua, and the town of Trujillo, province Honduras... a third of the blacks returned, meanwhile the rest decided to enter the forest fighting with the vegetation, illnesses and Caribbean warriors, which defended their land in a bloody and brutal war. The blacks defeated the Caribbean local tribes which had to move back into the forests of Segovia and Chontales... and they are enemies since those days until now... With the women of the defeated Indians the blacks started to have children initiating a new tribe which was called by themselves Zambos. Zambos where descendents of Africans and local habitants."
Biological tests are supporting the theory of the archbishop comparing the blood groups of the Tawahkas and the Miskitos on the Rio Coco Segovia (the actual border between Honduras and Nicaragua). The anthropologists Matson and Swanson proofed that all Tawahkas do have the bloodgroup "0". Among the Miskitos some 90 % do have "0", the rest are tested as type "A" and "B".
In fact, a lot of arguments are confirming the results if the blood group investigations. The traditions and languages of Miskitos and Tawahkas are very similar. According to the legends of the Tawahkas, the fathers Mai-Sahana and Yapti-Misri were born out of a big stone in the Patuca River. They formed the Miskitos, the Tawahkas and the Ohlawas. The language of the Miskitos is very similar to the language of the Tawahkas. But meanwhile the Tawahkas developed strong local dialects from town to town, the Miskitos all use the same language, another sign that the Miskitos are much younger and derived from the Tawahkas. In difference to the Tawahkas, the Miskitos took over a lot of words of the Spanish and the English language, without loosing the African words. All those are indices that the Miskitos derived from the Tawahkas.
Starting from Cape "Gracias a Dios " the Zambo Miskitos extended themselves along the coast of Honduras and pushed the local Indian groups of Pech and Tawahka out of their territory. Described in the year 1774 the Miskitos where a numerous tribe found on the Cape Gracias a Dios, the Rio Coco Segovia, and the village of Sandy Bay domiciling their king. The composition of the Miskitos characterized by local differences. In the north and the west dominated the black Miskitos, influenced by blacks coming from other places of the coast. Meanwhile in the south the appearance of the local tribes was stronger. Scientists are concluding from this observation to the exact place where the blacks landed after have been shipwrecked.
The Miskitos initiated contacts with British pirates and traders operating in the Caribbean Sea during the 17 century. The Miskitos traded with legal and illegal materials as for example firearms and indian slaves caught in the interior of the country (normally Indians from the tribes Tawahka and Pech). This could be an explanation about why the relationship between Miskitos and the Tawahkas and Pech was bad. The government of the Miskitos was a kingdom, the king was the leader and holder of power and he represented the Miskito interests to the foreigners. The king was the chief of the army and the highest judge. The British respected the position of the Miskito King and celebrated his coronation in one of their headquarters in the region, Belize or Jamaica. In the reality, the king had no power over the politics in his own territory, he was a marionette of the British crown to maintain the local population calm. The British never tried to involve themselves in the local Miskito affairs and left the impression of complete autonomy of the Miskito region, the local life never changed because of the British presence, and finally the Miskitos were satisfied with their king and their life. During the mid 19th century some changes occurred in the Moskitia: the British changed the capital of the Miskitos from Sandy Bay to Bluefields, capital of the department Moskitia. The political development of the Miskitos formed more and more a state which was strongly influenced by British businessmen, settlers and politicians.
The Miskitos changed their life from warriors to traders of indian rubber, fish and wood, helped by missioners of the German Evangelian Moravian church since 1849. Also, the missioners achieved the production of the bible in the Miskito language, saving this language for the next generations. Actually, the Miskitos are the biggest ethnic group of the Moskitia with some 30000 people.
Click here to view our Culture Tours.