The Autonomous Regions of Nicaragua

For a little over two centuries, between 1650 and 1860, the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua (historically known as the Atlantic Coast) was subject to different forms of foreign control, the main being the British Protectorate which lasted up to the mid 19th century. This fact conditioned the process of integration of the Atlantic Coast to the rest of the country which began only late in the last decade of the 20th century.
The juridical status of autonomy enjoyed by the inhabitants of the Atlantic Coast, is the culmination of a long quest for peace, national unity and reconciliation among coastal families and communities. It is the means by which an intense period marked by armed conflict, political confrontation, and historical differences came to an end.
The Autonomous Regions of Nicaragua —the North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN) and the South Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAS) — were created in 1987 and elected their first regional governments in 1990.
The Statute of Autonomy notwithstanding, the territory of the Atlantic Coast remains markedly isolated in regards to the rest of the country, due to a historical lag evidenced today in limited social and productive investments, scant transports and communications infrastructure, poor articulation of the regional productive structure, citizen insecurity, low coverage of basic services, and a still fragile institutional framework.
The original population of the Autonomous Regions is constituted by indigenous peoples and ethnic communities with multilingual characteristics (Miskitus, Creoles, Mayangnas, Ramas, and Garifunas), located in territories with a strong sense of ownership of their communal lands on the coastal and forest areas of high ecologic and environmental vulnerability.
The VII National Population Census (1995) indicates that both Autonomous Regions constitute the second most populated territorial area of Nicaragua, with 10.7 percent of the country’s total population, second only to Managua (25 %) and followed by Matagalpa (8.8%).
The Atlantic Coast registers the highest rate of migrant population growth in Nicaragua and this is attributed to a net increase of Mestizo families that systematically settle in the agricultural frontier zones. One third (33.3%) of the total population of the Atlantic Coast is established in urban communities and the other two thirds (66.7%) in rural zones.
The rate of illiteracy among the population 10 years or older is 43 percent. Illiteracy is more widespread in the rural areas, where this percentage rises to 55 percent, with an even higher rate among the female population. The rate of illiteracy for the country as is whole is 24.5 percent.
Meanwhile, three fourths (73.6 to 75%) of the population of the Nicaraguan Caribbean Coast lives in situations of poverty and extreme poverty. The employed workforce earns very low wages that merely cover half the of cost of the basic consumer basket. As much as 80 percent of an average salary on the Coast is destined to the purchase of food items.
See more information about the regions in project documents.