Nicaragua: Defending Territories and Traditions

The Problem© Casa Museo

On the North Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua, Indigenous Peoples face entrenched human rights abuses, including poverty, the denial of education and healthcare services, and the degradation of the ecosystems that are the bedrock of their traditional diet, economy, cultural practices, and very identity as Indigenous Peoples. In the 1980s, Indigenous Peoples won autonomy, but the region’s lack of education services and information technology undermines people’s capacity for effective self-government.

Having survived and resisted genocide, colonization, forced assimilation, and multiple invasions by the United States, families here now face further danger from governments and corporations seeking profits from the minerals, timber, fish, and other natural resources located on Indigenous territory. Even the carbon dioxide emitted by the rainforest has now become a tradable commodity, posing further threats to the rights of Indigenous Peoples who have historically managed and preserved the forest.

The Solution

MADRE has co-founded the Center for Indigenous Peoples' Autonomy and Development (known by its Spanish acronym, CADPI) to promote the education, culture, political participation, and community cohesion that people need to effectively demand their rights and develop their economy and government according to their own vision. 

CADPI offers art and music classes, human rights trainings, and children's recreational and skills-building programs for local Indigenous and African-descent communities. These programs bridge racial barriers and eradicate prejudices between local communities, and provide cultural and economic opportunities, particularly for youth. CADPI’s museum, Casa Museo, displays the work of local artists, organizes international cultural exchanges, and encourages appreciation of Miskito culture among young people in the area.

The Results

  • People are building the skills and perspectives necessary for effective self-government.
  • Young people are benefiting from job training and employment opportunities at the television studio.
  • MADRE and CADPI have drawn international attention to human rights violations against local Indigenous and African-descent communities through reports to the UN Committee for the Eradication of Racial Discrimination and the UN Human Rights Committee.
  • The Casa Museo museum is promoting appreciation of local Indigenous culture and offering visitors a chance to see their own identities and historical experiences reflected in exhibits.