Pro-Moskitia Foundation of Nicaragua and the Miskitu Diaspora
There is a long tradition of individuals from the Moskitia traveling and working outside of their homeland. During the twentieth century, most "shipped out" on sea-going vessels that traveled between the port at Bilwi to port cities in the United States and the United Kingdom. Recent upheavals in the Moskitia have encouraged others to leave Nicaragua to live in countries as diverse as Australia and the United States. Many others have fled Nicaragua as refugees to live in the neighboring countries of Panamá and Costa Rica.
Port Arthur, Texas
The Pro-Moskitia Foundation has focused on the Miskitu migrant community in Port Arthur, Texas for many years. The President of the Foundation organized meetings and workshops to address immigration laws, community organizing, and cultural preservation. The latter has been directed towards boys and girls, adolescents, and young people, to teach them about their Miskitu language, history and identity.
Miskitu immigration to Costa Rica began in the 1980s during the Contra War during which entire Miskitu communities were displaced. During the 1990s, others fled to Costa Rica to escape political crisis, unemployment or persecution. Others fled to Costa Rica during the political crisis of 2018-2019.
In March 18-24, 2019, the President of the Foundation traveled to the barrio of Pavas in San José, Costa Rica to meet with Miskitu refugees and undocumented workers living there. An estimated 300-400 Miskitu families from Nicaragua lived there (5,000 persons) in low-income neighborhoods of El Carpio, Las Lomas, Guadalupe, Bella Vista, Guanacaste, Guatuso and Pavas. They appealed to the Pro-Moskitia Foundation for help. The Foundation donated funds to pay to incorporate an association (Asociacion Indigena de la Miskitia Multietnico Internacional en Costa Rica) and to pay travel expense of an experienced organizer from Bilwi (Diana Maria Nicho Mihimaya) to help organize the association.
The Miskitu association in San Jose has legal status granted by the Government of Costa Rica. The government charges $70,000 colon (about $120 USD) to issue a work permit. The association in Costa Rica helps immigrants to obtain work permits by writing letters of recommendation for which the association charges about $3,000 colon (about $5 USD). The $5 USD charged for the letter is a source of friction within the community. Rev. Melesio Peter, who visited Costa Rica in 2019 as a representative of the Pro-Moskitia Foundation, said that the community is divided because of this reason. A second organization, Asociacion de miskitus en Costa Rica, reflects that division. A third group, El Proyecto de Cultura de Johnny Hall, also exists to promote Miskitu culture in the community.
During the visit of Diana Maria Nicho Nihimaya in April and May 2019, she worked with all three groups to strengthen their organizational structures and establish relations with governmental and educational entities in San José.
In June and July 2019, the President of the Foundation traveled to Panama City, Panama twice to help form the Asociacion de miskitus nicaraguences en Panama City, Panama. This is an association of Miskitu refugees. The association originated in a Moravian Church in a barrio of immigrants called San Miguelito, outside of Panama City. Ten persons volunteered to help organize the fraternal association and four directors (two of them women) were elected to form the Board. The total cost of incorporation of the association is $1,100 of which the Pro-Moskitia Foundation pledged to provide about $750.
Rev. Melesio Peter met with the Moravian Church, preached there on several occasions and then met with anthropologists at the university in Panama City. The faculty of the History Department encouraged Rev. Peter, who holds a PhD in Cultural Anthropology, to do a study of miskitu immigration to Panama. He made contact with two Catholic priests, one of whom is in charge of indigenous ministry for the Archdiocese of Panama. He attended a meeting of the organization of Kuno indigenous people who are native to Panama. He and his delegation were well received by the Kuno leaders who are potential allies in the struggle of the refugee Miskitu to obtain work permits in Panama.
There are about 5,000 Nicaraguan refugees in Panama, 4,000 of who are Miskitus. They are mostly undocumented immigrants. The men work in construction and as night watchmen. The women do cleaning and cooking and are housewives. These people are not legally recognized as refugees and the incoming President of Panama has vowed to expel them.
In October 16-29, the Foundation's President again traveled to Panama City, Panama to meet with the organizers of a Miskitu cultural organization. During his visit, he coordinated a presentation to a multicultural organization at the University of Panama on October 23 about the history and current situation of the Miskitu diaspora in Panama, Costa Rica and the United States. In October the Foundation provided $300.00 to the Asociacion de miskitus nicaraguences en Panama to help them incorporate their association.
The President of the Foundation returned to Panama in January 2020 to attend a conference of indigenous religions along with Miskitu representatives from Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. The Foundation provided funds to facilitate the attendance of the Miskitu representatives to attend the conference and help with travel expenses.
In May and June 2018, the President of the Pro-Moskitia Foundation traveled to Spain to visit Miskitu communities in Madrid and Zaragoza. Most of the Miskitu immigrants to Spain are recent arrivals and lack legal status to live and work in Spain.