Once Upon a Time

by Emory King

Several people have asked me about the Mosquito Shore. (Today it is called the Mosquito Coast.)

Geography: The original Mosquito Shore was on the Caribbean Coast of Central America. It extended on the northwest from Black River to the great bulge in Central America at Cape Gracias a Dios, (named by Christopher Columbus), and south to the San Juan River, (called Greytown by the British.)

Today part of it is in Honduras (Black River to the Cape) and part in Nicaragua (from the Cape to the San Juan River/Greytown.)

Population: Originally, it was the home of a number of Amerindian tribes. Some of them were the Mosquitos, the Samas, Poyas, Sambos, Sumu, Panamakas, Woolvas, Cukevas, Towkas and Tougulos.

History:Of course, the whole area was claimed by the Spanish, but they were defeated repeatedly when they tried to establish themselves on the coast.

The British came in the 1600s along with African Slaves, (and some Slaves arrived via shipwreck). And over the years a great friendship grew up among them, particularly with the Mosquito Indians.

In the meantime more British traders and settlers came and cut down trees for export and farmed. By 1786 there were about 3,000 British Subjects (including Africans) at the Shore.

The British signed a treaty with Spain agreeing to evacuate the British Subjects ( and the Africans) in 1786. More than 2,200 people came to Belize, outnumbering the Baymen by four to one. Many of the old family names in Belize today can be traced to this migration.

The Shore continued to attract British lumbermen, traders, and people looking for land. By 1805 Spain was complaining that there were as many, if not more, British subjects at the Mosquito Shore as had left in 1786.

The British Government did not completely abandon their interest in the Shore. Every year the Belize Superintendent was ordered to send presents to the King of the Mosquitos and this practice continued at least to 1845 or later.

In 1816 the Mosquito Prince, George Frederick, was crowned at the Court House in Belize by the Reverend Armstrong and, of all people, Marshall Bennett.

The King was murdered by his wife in 1824 and his body thrown into the sea. In 1825 Prince Robert Charles Frederick was crowned in St. John's Church in Belize. Again in 1845 another Prince, George Augustus Frederick,
was also crowned amid pomp and ceremony in St. John's Church.

Several countries, including Great Britain and the United States decided that a waterway could be established between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean by going through Nicaragua by way of the San Juan River to Lake Managua and a dug canal to the Pacific.

The British finally gave up the idea, (so did the Americans later), and in 1850 signed a treaty agreeing not to extend their interests in this part of the world, (with the exception of British Honduras).

That ended the official interest of the British in the Mosquito Shore.

For more in depth about the Mosquito Shore (Coast) read Penny-Ante Imperialism by Robert A. Naylor 1989.