R.A.A.N is located on a large plain consisting of the towns of Waspan, Rosita Prinzapolka, Bonanza, Siuna, Puerto Cabezas, Waslala and Mulukuku. It is characterized by its mountains with a maximum altitude of 30 mts above sea level and jungle region with multiethnic culture. In many of these communities they still have the ancestral community government led by an Elders Council.
Its beaches are rich in marine biodiversity such as red coral reefs, the Biological Reserve of the Miskitos Keys and coastal shores.
Among the many touristic sites of interest are swimming places such as the beautiful Pahara Lagoon, the community of Haoluver, natural reserves such as the Miskitos Keys and the Biosphere Reserve of Bosawas. In Waspan you will find Nicaragua’s biggest river: “Rio Coco” which crosses most of the northern part of the country.
R.A.A.N is suitable for Ecotourism, Adventure Tourism, and Community Tourism.
It is located in Miskitu territory and their Department Capital is Bilwi, -a Bawihka word which means Snake Between Leafs. The Miskitus were communities that used to live in the area of Matagalpa but were forced to migrate to the east when they got into conflicts with the Spaniards.
The population is divided as follows: 72.3% is Miskito, 21.7% is mestizos, 5.7% Creole, and 0.3% is Mayagna. Creole, English, Spanish and Miskito are spoken.
The name Miskitu comes from the word “Miskut” and their name begun as Miskut Uplika Nani or people of Miskut; because of this, they forgot that their real tribal name was Tawira. The Tawira (Miskitu) arrived to Sita Awala or Oyester River (today Cabo Gracias a Dios), during the 800s. Their first arrival happened precisely in those years to Sita Awala.
Sumu is a collective name used by the Miskitu to refer to other groups from the Ulua Family, called Chontales (in Nahualt language: Barbarian). They were also called Karibies or Caribisis by the Spanish living in the Pacific of Nicaragua. The Indigenous Prinsus and Kukras tribe began to use the Miskitu language that was originally a Tawira dialect and later on adapted some words from English.
Among the Sumu Family, the Twahka and Panamaka groups stand out. The rest of the tribes like the Ulwa migrated to Karawala in the surroundings of the Big River of Matagalpa, Kurimwás, Siquia, Mico, and Ramae that were consumed by the mestizo.
The Spanish Mestizo.
As of the ninth and tenth centuries, the Uluas were chased out of their lands by the large migrations of Nahualt (aztecas), Maribios (tlapanecas) and Chorotegas (Mangues) originally from Mexico.
Mixed with Spaniards, the new race marched onto the Caribbean Coast at the end of the XIX century. The English had been thrown out of the area and Mosquitia had been reinserted into Nicaragua by the Government of Zelaya. A new biological and cultural mix of races began with the populations of the Sumu-Ulúa, Ramas and Miskita.
The Creoles or Criollos
The arrival of Africans reduced the use of native labor, which was weakened by the forced labor of the European invaders.
Starting in 1582 the English slave traders began the traffic of native Africans reduced to slaves and as a result, the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua, an English Protectorate, increased the African population and integrated it into a new social class:
The slaves, becoming servants to the Europeans. The slave class mixed with the aborigines introduced new racial groups to the world, the zambos and the creoles or criollos.
Typical foods: the main ingredients in the meals are coconut and ginger; this is added to almost every dish like rondon or gallo pinto. The corn tortilla is eaten throughout all the cultures. Each ethnic group has its own gastronomy detailed below:
Food: Luk-Luk, Rondón, Auhbipiakan, Tualbi
Beverages: Buña de yuca o pijibay; Wabul de banano, plátano maduro, Greyfruit or fruta de pan.
African’s Gastronomy (Creoles)
Food: Rondon de aleta de tortuga, Gallo pinto with coconut, Fish Rondon, Turtle Meat Rondon, Rondón de Wari, Smoked Pork Rondon, Steau Beans (Frijoles con coco con Donplín: sopa marinera y camarón empanizado), Rice with dry shrimps or with coconut, Marinera Soup, Fried Fish, shrimp, fish, snail and lobster Ceviche, Sopa de Jaiba, Crab Soup.
Pastries: Quequisque Cake, Yuca Cake, Queque de pan viejo
Banana Cake, Pati, Toto, Bon, Pan de coco, Yani Queque, Plantintá, Empanada de coco, Guisada
Beverages: Jinja Beer; Te: zacate de limón, naranja agria, albahaca; Fermentado: corn, rice, orange
Food: Baho, Boil Meat, Broil Meat and Dikuruhna
Beverages: Buña de pihibay, yuca, plátano maduro; Cacao con leche; Pozol and Wabul
They use cilantro (kisuri) in almost all the foods.
Food: Baho, Nacatamales, Corn tortillas, Indio Viejo, Vigoron, Plantains and cheese, Gallopinto
Soups: Albondiga, Cheese, Mondongo, beans
Beverages: Chicha fermentada y sin fermentar, Pinolillo, Cacao and Tamarindo con chilla
The archipelago is located 80 kilometers northeast of Bilwi; its extraordinary waters of blue turquoise allow you to appreciate the seaweeds in the banks of the Caribbean Sea. In an area of 40 kilometers, surrounded by coral reefs and located on a not-too-deep marine platform are the coral covered by mangroves that surround the saltwater lagoon.
The center of the archipelago is formed by more than 70 coral keys of different sizes. The marine floor of the Miskito keys is one of the most beautiful ocean sceneries in the Caribbean. Fish in the coral reefs is abundant, where the Miskito fishermen have erected houses on stilts from bamboos where they remain throughout the lobster season.
The lower parts of the keys, rich in algae, host the biggest colony of vegetarian green turtles in the Caribbean. The turtles have been traditionally one of the basic foods of the local population. Carey Turtles can also be found in good quantities in the keys, they are hunted for their shell and are in danger of extinction.
The Miskito keys offer the following attractions: artisan fishing, bird watching, skilled or amateur scuba diving, enjoyment of its people and customs.
Puerto Cabezas is 560 Kilometers from Managua, was an indigenous village with the name of Bilwi “Snake between Leafs”, sparely populated, with old traditions, small straw houses with bamboo and pine wood structures. It had neither production nor economy. It began to develop as a city in 1921 and officially denominated to it on April 15, 1929.
Bilwi has places of touristic interest such as: La Bocana, The Restaurant and viewer Kabupayasca, located on the northeast side of the city where a visitor can enjoy a beautiful view of the Atlantic Ocean. The beaches of Tuapi can also be enjoyed with its peaceful river and the calmness of the mountains.
Prinzapolka, founded in 1860 by the Indigenous Manyagnas, were thrown out of their community of Wankluna by Miskito Indians.
This picturesque town has humid and warm weather, and its inhabitants fish for a living. It was the country’s gateway for goods and merchandise in the mid XX century.
It is located on the shores of the river and traditionally works as the gateway of products of the region such as; bananas, metals, rubber and precious woods.
From the junction of Siuna-Rosita and in the middle of a pine tree forest you arrive to Alamikamba on the shores of the Prinzapolka River. Through this excursion of 100 kilometers one encounters around 36 Miskitos communities.
Close to Prinzapolka there are two palafistic villages: The Masmalaya and Walpa Tara. They are peaceful people who fish to the happy tunes of their guitars and bird songs. In Alamikamba a party or festival is discretely celebrated for Sihkru, where the population takes a drink made by the Sukia to call upon the spirits of their ancestors.
Prinzapolka used to be the capital of Puerto Cabezas when the region was incorporated to the rest of the country; it oversaw Siuna, Rosita and Bonanza, places well-known for their gold mines.
The celebration of King Pulanka is a social-cultural tradition of the Miskito People; it is traditionally celebrated from January to March in the different sectors and neighborhoods of Puerto Cabezas. It is a cultural activity celebrated to maintain the identity of their ancestors. Communities participate and express the cultural importance of their past, strengthening the value of this activity through the exchange of experiences with other communities.
Among the communities that participate, the best groups are chosen by sectors or territories, these groups participate in the King Pulanka Municipal competition held in Bilwi. The performances take place with the presence of the regional and municipal authorities, and community leaders as well as special guests.
Other Ethnic Celebrations
Each ethnic group celebrates its cultural traditions according to its historic features. The Miskito celebrations preserve the memory of their past with cultural activities like prayers, Miskito dances, Indigenous Queens, and community parties, especially the Sihkru Tara Festival. This festival is celebrated in memory of the deceased of each year; one can see historical dances and music, and some foods that are barely known today.
The Creoles, with the tradition of the Palo de Mayo (May Pole), have their typical food such as: El Rondon, el Pati, Coconut bread and the Plantitak.
All the ethnic groups celebrate the autonomy, approved by the National Assembly in September of 1987.
The cultural group Criollo, founded in 1979 is composed by Elders who are the depositaries of the Creole oral traditions with the objective to rescue the afro-Caribbean culture.
The Multiethnic Cultural Center has the objective to rescue the history and culture of the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua. "Tininiska" has the main goal of propagation, recovery, and preservation of the cultures of the Caribbean Coast of Honduras and Nicaragua, oriented towards the Sumu and Miskito people.
The Biosphere Reserve of Bosawas
The RAAN has 6 natural reserves. Among them, the most important one is the Biosphere Reserve of Bosawas.
Its rain forest is part of the biological corridor of Mesoamerica; it is populated by the Manyagnas, Miskito, Rama, and Garífuna indigenous communities. It feeds hundreds of small rivers creating a pluvial network of 4 main rivers, among them the Rio Coco. Most of them begin in the high forest areas of the center of the reserve.
The Bosawas Reserve (shared with Siuna, Bonanza and the Department of Jinotega) is located between Bocay River, the big Saslaya and Waspuk River. You may notice that the Bosawas name is composed by the first letters of these three names. It is the biggest wild reserve of Central America with 8000 Km2. There you can find the mountains of Yeluca, where the Waspuk River is born and serves as a sacred place for the Manyagnas to worship their ancestors.
The reserve is located in one of the most remote and virgin regions of Nicaragua, evenly formed by intact tropical pluvial jungle, and tucked away within a scenic area of low valleys and rolling hills. There are forests with tree species of great value: Mahogany, cedar, oak, pochote, laurel, etc. and non-wood species such as bamboo, balsam and musaceas.
The animal fauna is also very rich, you can be on the lookout for tapires, jaguars, monkeys of different breeds, deer, zahine, snakes, birds and many more amazing species populate this reserve. It is known for its amazing biodiversity.
Also within this reserve is where the National Park “Cerro Saslaya”, of 630 Km2, is located.
Bosawas was declared Biosphere Reserve and Patrimony of Humanity by UNESCO in 1997, its tropical jungles and wetlands have contributed to its recognition as the “Lung of Central America”. It generates good weather, and botanic diversity.
Waspam - Río Coco
It is a city located on the shores of Rio Coco, populated by Miskitos and with more than 80 indigenous communities located along the river and on the beach.
Near Waspam lies the big Lagoon of Bihmuna, next to the sea, surrounded by mangroves, with a rich array of birds, crocodiles and other animals. It is an undisturbed environment. Bihmuna connects to the Caribbean Sea by the natural canal of Turku. It has a humid tropical monzonic jungle and its hydrographic system, Rio Coco, stands out as the most extensive of Nicaragua.
Rio Coco crosses two important land formations: those of the humid tropical jungle and the valleys, this last one covered by pine trees (Pinus Caribbean). The river is a natural border with our neighbor Honduras.
In the RAAN there are 5 water resources that flow into the Caribbean Ocean.
The aggressive and roaring rivers with its extensions are part of the Caribbean coast.
These resources are formed by: Rio Wawa, Ulang, Kukalaya, Prinzapolka and Coco. Navigating the rivers is an ecotourism option where you can enjoy attractive sceneries, contemplation of the nature of a humid tropical forest, pine trees, and on its riverbanks, the mangroves that use the coastal shores and lagoons.