Afromestizo - The Third Root
African Heritage of Central America
By Kent C. Williams
©2001 - Kent C. Williams, Santa Rosa, California
Important Dates in the History of Black Central America
1492 - Pedro Alonzo Nino, a navigator considered by historians to be of African ancestry, sails with Columbus on his first voyage to the Americas.
1501- Queen Isabella gives sanction to the introduction of African slaves into the Spanish colonies of the Americas.
1502 - The first slaves are brought from Spain to the island of Hispaniola.
Diego Mendez, a black man, is with Columbus on his fourth voyage to the Americas. He is the first person of African ancestry (in modern times) to set foot in Central America, landing at the Bay Islands, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.
1509 - The first Spanish settlement on the mainland of the Americas is established at Nombre de Dios in Panama.
1510 - 250 Afro-Hispanic slaves are brought to Hispaniola to work in the gold mines.
1513 - The black nobleman Nuflo do Olano arrives in Panama with Vasco Balboa and is with him when he "discovers" the Pacific. Thirty Africans (along with native Americans) build the first two substantial vessels to be constructed and sailed on the Pacific coast of the Americas.
1517 - The Dominican missionary Bartolome de las Casas recommends to the Spanish Crown that Africans take the place of native Americans as slave laborers in the Spanish colonies. The Crown approves, resulting in a sharp increase in the importation of black slaves into Hispaniola, Cuba and Puerto Rico.
1519 - Panama City is founded by Pedro Arias de Avila.
1524 - The first Africans arrive in Honduras with the landing of Gil Gonzalez de Avila at Puerto Cortez.
The first Africans to arrive in Guatemala accompany Pedro de Alvarado on his conquest of Guatemala from Spanish bases in Mexico. Around 10,000 Africans are brought to Guatemala between 1524 and 1620.
Cordoba establishes the cities of Granada and Leon (Nicaragua) and slaves are soon sent to work the indigo and cacao plantations around Granada.
1530 - Mining interests develop in Honduras and Africans are brought to work in the mines of the new colony.
French, British and Dutch pirates start to use the Bay Islands (Honduras) as a hideout from Spanish authorities.
1531 - The first slave rebellion in Central American history takes place in Panama.
1541 - A Royal Ordinance approves the importation of African slaves into El Salvador. They are used in mining operations and after 1570 on indigo plantations. Around 10,000 Africans are brought to El Salvador between 1541 and 1625.
1542 - A Royal Ordinance called the New Laws officially ends the forced laboring of native Americans under the system known as the encomienda. As a result the number of African slaves brought to Central America is increased.
1545 - It is estimated that 2,000 Africans are laboring in the mines of Honduras.
1548 - The New Laws finally take effect in El Salvador. The number of African slaves brought to the colony increases.
Slaves working in the mines near San Pedro Sula (Honduras) revolt against the Spanish.
1550 - African slaves introduce the Marimba to Central America. It is considered Central America's most typical folk instrument.
1555 - Slaves that had been brought to the mines at Buria near Barquisimento (Honduras) in 1550 rise up under the leadership of an African slave named Miguel. Miguel's Rebellion is one of the first important slave rebellions in the history of the Americas.
1561/ 1562 - Spanish colonists establish settlements in the central highlands of Costa Rica. The town of Cartago is founded in 1563. African slaves are brought to the colony in small numbers.
1569 - A silver strike in Honduras lasts until 1584 and results in the increased importation of African slaves.
1572 - English pirate Sir Francis Drake plunders the port of Nombre De Dios. Runaway African and native American slaves join the British in their looting of the Spanish town.
1610 - There are 4,000 slaves in Panama City.
1620 - The English explorer Thomas Gage observes large numbers of African slaves working on indigo plantations along Guatemala's Pacific coast.
1625 - A planned slave rebellion in San Salvador (El Salvador) is narrowly averted. As a result, there is a decrease in the number of African slaves brought to the colony.
1633 - An English logging settlement is established at Cabo Gracias a Dios on the Mosquito Coast of Honduras.
1635 - The town of San Vicente (El Salvador) is established by Spanish colonists. African slaves are brought to the area to work on Spanish owned indigo plantations.
Two ships carrying captured Nigerians are shipwrecked off the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. The survivors make their way to the island, living with the native Caribs. The mixed race descendants of these two groups are known as "Black Caribs" or Garifuna.
1638 - The Scottish pirate Peter Wallace arrives at the mouth of the Belize River (Belize).
1641 - The first of several shipwrecked and escaped Africans arrive on the shores of the Mosquito Coast (Honduras/Nicaragua). Mixing together over time with native American tribes, the origins of the multi-racial Miskito date from this decade.
1655 - British sailors and soldiers from Jamaica arrive in Belize to cut logwood. The beginnings of the British and African settlements on St. George's Caye and at "Belize Town" begins.
1662 - The Mosquito Coast town of Bluefields is established by the Dutch pirate Abraham Blauwveld.
1672 - The first mention of the Miskitos is an estimate made by English pirate John Equemelin that they number around sixteen hundred.
1687 - The first Miskito king Jeremy I is crowned by the English in a coronation that takes place in Jamaica. The English establish a "protectorate" over the Coast.
1699 - William Pitt establishes the British settlement of Black River (Palacios) on the Mosquito Coast of Honduras.
1700- Three hundred English and Scottish loggers and their African slaves are cutting logwood at the mouth of the Belize River (Belize). They call their colony the "Bay Settlement".
1717 - The Spanish attack the British settlement at St. George's Caye (Belize).
1724 - A Spanish missionary in Belize notes that the British are bringing in large numbers of African slaves from Jamaica and Bermuda. Most of these slaves are born in West Africa.
1733 - Spanish forces from the Yucatan attack the British settlement in Belize driving the settlers and their slaves into the forests. They soon return.
1739 - British military forces occupy the Bay Islands off Honduras.
1740 - The British bring in groups of black Jamaicans to Bluefields on the Mosquito Coast of Nicaragua.
1742 - British planters and their slaves start to settle in the Bay Islands (Honduras).
1748 - The Spanish retake the Bay Islands and force British settlers and their slaves to evacuate three years latter.
1754 - The Spanish send a military force from Guatemala to attack the British Bay Settlement (Belize). The Spanish are driven off.
1763 - The Treaty of Paris between Spain and England requires England to evacuate British logwood settlements along the Mosquito Coast in exchange for Spain's recognition of British logging interests in Belize.
1770 - 80% of all male salves (over the age of ten) in Belize are engaged in the cutting of logwood or mahogany.
1779 - The British return to the Bay Islands after having been forced to evacuate in 1751.
The Spanish attack and burn the British "Bay Settlement" (Belize) to the ground. Survivors of the attack are forced to march to the Yucatan and then removed to jails in Cuba. The survivors are released in 1782 and return to Belize the following year. Before the Spanish attack 86% of the population of the Bay Settlement was of African descent.
1780 - A Spanish offensive to remove the British and their slaves from the Mosquito Coast begins. In 1782 an attack by the Spanish results in the British abandoning their settlements. They soon return.
1782 - The British are defeated by Spain and forced to evacuate the Bay Islands (Honduras). The islands are left depopulated until 1797 when the Afro-Amerindian Garifuna are brought to the islands by the British after a Garifuna military defeat.
1783 - The British are forced to abandon their Mosquito Coast "protectorate". They re-establish the protectorate in 1816. The Treaty of Versailles allows British woodcutters to return to Belize and log mahogany and logwood between the Hondo and Belize Rivers.
1786 - The Anglo-Hispanic Convention is signed and the British agree to evacuate their settlements on the Mosquito Coast in exchange for recognition of the rights of their woodcutters in Belize. Around 2,000 British and Africans leave the Coast during the 1780's for homes in Belize and the Caymen Islands.
1787 - The last of the British (and their slaves) leave the Mosquito Coast.
1797 - On March 3rd over 3,000 Garifuna (of mixed African and native American ancestry) are forcibly deported by the British from their homes on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent to the island of Roatan off the coast of Honduras. Within a few years most have moved to the North Coast of Honduras.
1798 - After war is declared between Spain and England (1796) the Spanish attack the Bay Settlement for the last time ( on September 10th). The British, along with slaves and free blacks defend the settlement from a Spanish flotilla of 32 vessels and 2,500 soldiers and sailors. Slaves and free blacks play a key role in the Belizean victory at the Battle of St. George's Caye. Adam Flowers and a group of free Creoles had caste the deciding votes among the Settlements representatives to stay and defend the colony against the Spanish.
1799 - The Garifuna establish their first two settlements on the mainland of Central America in the vicinity of the town of Trujillo (Honduras).
1802 - 105 Garifuna are living at Stann Creek (Belize).
1810 - Garifuna start to settle near the Honduran town of La Ceiba.
1814 - Guatemalan dictator Rafael Carrera is born in Guatemala City to parents of Afromestizo ancestry. As president of Guatemala he is revered by the natives as a "god".
1816 - The British protectorate over the Mosquito Coast in Nicaragua is re-established with the crowning of Miskito king George Frederick II. The "protectorate" lasts until 1860.
1816 - Between this year and 1825 the slave population of Belize declines from 2,740 to 2,470.
1820 - The last slave rebellion in Belizean history takes place. It is led by two slaves Will and Sharper.
1821 - The five Central American "provinces" declare their independence from Spain.
1823 - The United Provinces of Central America are formed out of five of the seven Central American provinces. The new constitution of the Federation abolishes slavery in Central America (December 31st). Three Salvadoran statesmen are responsible for putting an end to slavery in Central America: Jose S. Canas, Fr. Jose Delgado and President Manuel J. Arce. The United Provinces are the first nation in the "New World" (after Haiti) to outlaw slavery in the "New World". The 1,000 remaining slaves in the region are freed.
Garifuna arrive along the Caribbean coast of Guatemala after the failure of a royalist coup in Honduras. They settle in the Livingston area.
1831 - The British and their slaves begin to settle again on the Bay Islands (Honduras). This migration from Belize and the Cayman Islands continues until 1843.
On July 5th all "coloured subjects of free condition" in Belize are granted full "civil rights".
1832 - After supporting a failed royalist coup in Honduras (1823) a group of Garifuna under the leadership of Alejo Benji arrive in dugout canoes on the shores of Belize at Stann Creek (November 18th). This date is celebrated in Belize as Garifuna Settlement Day, a national holiday.
1838 - Slavery in Belize is abolished.
1850 - The town of Colon (Panama) is founded as the terminus of the Panama Railroad. Blacks from the English speaking islands of the West Indies are brought in to build the railroad that is completed in 1855.
1859 - The British officially recognize Honduran sovereignty over the Bay Islands.
1860 - The British end their "protectorate" over the Mosquito Coast. The Nicaraguan government establishes a 7,000 sq. mile "reservation" for the Miskitos.
1862 - Belize officially becomes a colony of Great Britain and renamed "British Honduras".
1866/1870 - 1,500 American Confederate veterans, their families along with numbers of African-Americans settle in Belize after the end of the American Civil War. Many return to the U.S. while others stay on and mix into the general population over several generations.
1867 - The great Nicaraguan poet and writer Ruben Dario (1867-1916) is born to an Afromestizo family in Metapa.
1871 - The construction of a railroad from San Jose (Costa Rica) to the coastal town of Puerto Limon is begun. Black laborers from Jamaica are recruited to build the rail line which is completed in 1891.
British Honduras becomes a "Crown Colony" of Great Britain.
1878 - The American Minor Keith establishes banana plantations in Costa Rica and exports his first bananas to the United States. Many Jamaicans who had worked on the construction of the San Jose to Puerto Limon railroad are hired to work on Keith's plantations. In 1899 he consolidates his holdings with Boston Fruit Company to form the United Fruit Company.
1880 - The French attempt to build a canal through the isthmus of Panama. Black laborers from the West Indies are recruited in large numbers. Before the project is abandoned (1889) over 22,000 workers have died.
1894 - The Nicaraguan government takes final control over the Mosquito Coast.
1899 - United and Standard Fruit Companies (USA) establish operations on the North Coast of Honduras. Black laborers from Jamaica and the West Indies are recruited to work on banana plantations.
1906 - United Fruit Company establishes banana plantations along the Caribbean coast of Guatemala. Black laborers are recruited from Jamaica.
1907 - Work begins on the building of the Panama Canal. Large numbers of laborers from Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad come to Panama to work on the Canal. By 1910 the Panama Canal Company employs more than 50,000 workers, three-quarters of them Afro-Antilleans. The Canal is completed in 1914.
1914 - 600 Belizeans (mostly Creoles) serve in the British Army during World War I. They are stationed in the Middle East. They are the only Central American military personnel to have served outside the region during wartime.
1919 - Riots brake out in Belize City after the return of Creole military volunteers. Many ex-soldiers had felt discriminated against by British officers and NCO's .
1921 - The Belize City riots lead to the founding of a branch of Marcus Garvey's United Negro Improvement Association. Garvey visits and speaks to the Creole community of Belize City. He makes a return visit in 1929.
1927 - 57% of the population of the province of Limon (Costa Rica) is of African ancestry. By 1950 the percentage has fallen to 33%.
1941 - Panama passes anti black immigration laws and many Afro-Antilleans loose their Panamanian citizenship between the years 1941 to 1946.
1948/1949 - The Afro-Antillean community of Costa Rica is given back its full civil rights after anti-black immigration laws were passed in that country during the 1930's.
1950 - George Price (Belize) forms the People's Unity Party (PUP) in Belize City. Price works for the cause of Belizean independence. He serves as Belize's first Prime Minister from 1981-1993.
1964 - A national strike in Belize results in the adoption of a new constitution and internal self-government.
1977 - Leaders of the Afro-Antillean community in Costa Rica hold a conference in San Jose to promote a greater awareness of the culture and history of black people in Costa Rica.
1980 - Up to 10,000 Miskitos flee their homes in Nicaragua for Honduras after attacks on their villages by forces of the Sandinista government. Most return after 1985.
A "Black Panamanian Congress" is held in Panama City in an attempt to build greater public awareness of the contributions made to Panama by the Afro-Antillean community. Subsequent congresses are held in 1983 and 1988.
1981 - Belize gains its complete independence from Great Britain (September 21st).
1987 - The Nicaraguan government divides the Mosquito Coast into two "autonomous regions".
1997 - On April 12th the Garifuna celebrate their 200th anniversary in Central America with celebrations on the island of Roatan and at Trujillo (Honduras).
1999- The black population of Central America is estimated at 6% of the regions population or 1.9 million persons.