Photo by Carla León Celaya / Cronkite Borderlands Project

Canal project ignores plight of indigenous groups in Nicaragua

By Elizabeth Blackburn / Cronkite Borderlands Project

Published June 17, 2015

Indigenous leaders in Nicaragua, especially those on the country’s remote east coast, say their people are being ignored as plans for a inter-oceanic canal move forward. The indigenous groups say the canal project could affect their land, livelihoods and way of life. Some hope the canal could have a positive economic impact but want more consultation with government officials.

Rama Cay, Nicaragua

GALLERY: Rama Cay, Nicaragua

Rama Cay is located 15 kilometers south of Bluefields, Nicaragua, in Bluefields Bay. The island of 950 inhabitants is a main population center for the Rama people. Elders hope new economic development from a proposed inter-oceanic canal will raise the standard of living, but they are concerned about what they say is a lack of respect on the part of the Nicaraguan government.

Bluefields, Nicaragua

GALLERY: Bluefields, Nicaragua

Bluefields is the largest population center on Nicaragua’s east coast and home to the majority of the nation’s indigenous people. Life in Bluefields revolves around the community’s central market, docks and the Moravian Church. Community leaders here are concerned about how plans for an inter-oceanic canal will affect their community, its economy and way of life.

Building houses on the Mainland, Nicaragua

GALLERY: Building houses on the Mainland, Nicaragua

By law the Rama-Kriol people of Nicaragua have autonomous authority in the island community of Rama Cay and a vast area on the mainland. As Rama Cay has become crowded, the Rama people have built homes on the mainland. Community leaders are concerned that the Nicaraguan government’s plans for a canal will violate sovereignty and erode control over their lands.