Articulating race on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast




Herrera, Francisco Jose, Jr.

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Mestizos have lived on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast since at least 1894 and been the majority group since at least 1981. However, Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast is frequently imagined as a predominantly black and indigenous space. As renewed interest in mega-development projects, such as the trans-oceanic canal, bring attention to Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast, questions about the autonomy of Afro-descendant and indigenous communities are raised once again. Moreover, as mestizos continue to migrate from the Pacific and central regions of the country towards the Caribbean coast territories, violence has escalated as they attempt to claim lands that have been constitutionally recognized as collectively owned by Afro-descendant and indigenous communities of the Caribbean coast territories. Recently, mestizos on the Caribbean coast have begun to express a racial identity, as “mestizos costeños.” This thesis explores the emergence of this racial articulation by drawing on Stuart Hall’s theory of articulation to analyze the discourses produced about mestizo costeño history and identity in Bluefields, Nicaragua. Using in-depth interviews and participant observation, this thesis examines the discursive elements that mestizos costeños link together to produce these discourses. The thesis argues that to understand how mestizos costeños fit into regional and national politics, we must explore the political work that the discursive linkages do in the articulations they produce. To that end, this thesis examines these articulations and situates them in the context of local, regional, and national politics to gain a broader understanding of the implications of the discourse of mestizo costeño identity for racial politics in Bluefields and the Caribbean coast. The thesis concludes by examining what the case of mestizos costeños in Bluefields has to offer towards understanding the contributions of identity politics to liberalism by considering the ideas of Charles Mills and Creole community leaders from Bluefields


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