Occupying the northeast corner of Honduras is the remote and undeveloped expanse of La Mosquitia (often spelt “Moskitia”). Bounded to the west by the mountain ranges of the Río Plátano and Colón, with the Río Coco forming the border with Nicaragua to the south, this vast region comprises almost a fifth of Honduras’s territory. With just two peripheral roads and a tiny population divided among a few far-flung towns and villages, entering La Mosquitia really does mean leaving the beaten track. There are few phones in the region, and all accommodation is extremely basic, often without electricity and with latrine-style toilets. Food is usually limited to rice, beans and the catch of the day, so if you’re making an independent trek, bring enough food with you for your party and guides. Getting around requires a spirit of adventure, but the effort is well rewarded.
To the surprise of many who come here expecting to have to hack their way through jungle, much of La Mosquitia is composed of marshy coastal wetlands and flat savanna. The small communities of Palacios and Brus Laguna are access points for the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, the most famous of five separate reserves in the area, set up to protect one of the finest remaining stretches of virgin tropical rainforest in Central America. Puerto Lempira, to the east, is the regional capital.
The largest ethnic group inhabiting La Mosquitia is the Miskitos, numbering around 30,000, who spoke a unique form of English until as recently as a few generations ago. There are much smaller communities of Pech, who number around 2500, and Tawahka (Sumu), of whom there are under a thousand, living around the Río Patuca.Read More
La Mosquitia history and politics
La Mosquitia history and politics
Before the Spanish arrived, La Mosquitia belonged to the Pech and Sumu. Initial contact with Europeans was comparatively benign, as the Spanish preferred to concentrate instead on the mineral-rich lands of the interior. Relations with Europeans intensified when the British began seeking a foothold on the mainland in the seventeenth century, establishing settlements on the coast at Black River (now Palacios) and Brewer’s Lagoon (Brus Laguna), whose inhabitants – the so-called “shoremen” – engaged in logging, trading, smuggling and fighting the Spanish.
Britain’s claim to La Mosquitia, made nominally to protect the shoremen, though really intended to ensure a transit route from the Atlantic to the Pacific, supposedly ended in 1786, when all Central American territories except Belize were ceded to the Spanish. In the 1820s, however, taking advantage of post-independence chaos, Britain again encouraged settlement on the Mosquito Coast and by 1844 had all but formally announced a protectorate in the area. Not until 1859 and the British–American Treaty of Cruz Wyke did Britain formally end all claims to the region.
The initial impact of mestizo Honduran culture on La Mosquitia was slight. Since the creation of the administrative department of Gracias a Dios in 1959, however, indigenous cultures have gradually become diluted: Spanish is now the main language, and the government encourages mestizo settlers to migrate here in search of land. Pech, Miskito and Garífuna communities have become more vocal in recent years in demanding respect for their cultural differences and in calling for an expansion of health, education and transport infrastructures.