The Corn Islands
are two island
An island or isle is any piece of sub-continental land that is surrounded by water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls can be called islets, cays or keys. An island in a river or lake may be called an eyot , or holm...
s about 70 kilometres (43.5 mi) east off the Caribbean
The Caribbean Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean located in the tropics of the Western hemisphere. It is bounded by Mexico and Central America to the west and southwest, to the north by the Greater Antilles, and to the east by the Lesser Antilles....
coast of Nicaragua
Nicaragua is the largest country in the Central American American isthmus, bordered by Honduras to the north and Costa Rica to the south. The country is situated between 11 and 14 degrees north of the Equator in the Northern Hemisphere, which places it entirely within the tropics. The Pacific Ocean...
, constituting one of 12 municipalities
A municipality is essentially an urban administrative division having corporate status and usually powers of self-government. It can also be used to mean the governing body of a municipality. A municipality is a general-purpose administrative subdivision, as opposed to a special-purpose district...
of the Región Autónoma del Atlántico Sur
Región Autónoma del Atlántico Sur , sometimes shortened to RAAS, is one of two autonomous regions in Nicaragua. It covers an area of 27,407 km² and has a population of 382,100...
Nicaragua is a unitary republic, and for administrative purposes, it is divided into 15 departments and two self-governing regions based on the Spanish model:-Zelaya Department:...
. The official name of the municipality is Corn Island
(the English name is officially used in Spanish-speaking Nicaragua).
Corn Islands consists of Big Corn Island
(Isla Grande del Maíz
; often simply referred to as Corn Island
; Isla del Maíz
), with an area of 10 square kilometres (3.9 sq mi), and Little Corn Island
(Isla Pequeña del Maíz)
, with an area of 2.9 square kilometres (1.1 sq mi). The total area is 12.9 square kilometres (5 sq mi). Mount Pleasant Hill in the north of Big Corn Island, is the highest elevation of the islands, at 113 metres (370.7 ft). Little Corn Island reaches a height of 38 metres (124.7 ft) in the Lookout Point in the northern part of the island.
The Corn Islands, along with the eastern half of present-day Nicaragua, was a British protectorate from 1655 until 1894, a period when the region was called the Mosquito Coast
The Caribbean Mosquito Coast historically consisted of an area along the Atlantic coast of present-day Nicaragua and Honduras, and part of the Western Caribbean Zone. It was named after the local Miskito Indians and long dominated by British interests...
. At one time, the islands were frequented by Caribbean pirates
] The era of piracy in the Caribbean began in the 16th century and died out in the 1830s after the navies of the nations of Western Europe and North America with colonies in the Caribbean began combating pirates. The period during which pirates were most successful was from the 1690s until the 1720s...
. In 1894, the Nicaraguan government
Nicaragua is a constitutional democracy with executive, legislative, judicial, and electoral branches of government. The President of Nicaragua is both head of state and head of government. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in the National Assembly. The...
claimed the area.
Under the Bryan–Chamorro Treaty of 1914, the islands were leased to the United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...
for a period of 99 years
A 99-year lease was, under historic common law, the longest possible term of a lease of real property. It is no longer the law in most common law jurisdictions today, yet 99-year leases continue to be common as a matter of business practice and conventional wisdom.-The law:Under the traditional...
. The terms of the lease made the Corn Islands subject to U.S. law
The law of the United States consists of many levels of codified and uncodified forms of law, of which the most important is the United States Constitution, the foundation of the federal government of the United States...
, but they remained Nicaraguan territory. The lease notwithstanding, the United States never maintained a significant presence in the islands. Once the laws of Nicaragua became common law, all these communities, which were ruled from Bluefields
Bluefields is the capital of the municipality of the same name, and of Región Autónoma del Atlántico Sur in Nicaragua. It was also capital of the former Zelaya Department, which was divided into North and South Atlantic Autonomous Regions...
until the autonomous laws were enacted in the 1980s with U.S. acquiescence and the Nicaraguan government directed the local administration of the islands. The right of the United States to use of the islands remained until April 25, 1971, when the lease was officially terminated by the denunciation
Denunciation or abrogation refers to the announcement of a treaty's termination. Some treaties contain a termination clause that specifies that the treaty will terminate if a certain number of nations denounce the treaty...
of the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty under the presidency of Anastasio Somoza Debayle
Anastasio Somoza Debayle was a Nicaraguan leader and officially the 73rd and 76th President of Nicaragua from 1 May 1967 to 1 May 1972 and from 1 December 1974 to 17 July 1979. As head of the National Guard, he was de facto ruler of the country from 1967 to 1979...
, on July 14, 1970. The United States Coast Guard
The United States Coast Guard is a branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven U.S. uniformed services. The Coast Guard is a maritime, military, multi-mission service unique among the military branches for having a maritime law enforcement mission and a federal regulatory agency...
however maintains a significant presence in the islands, in coordination with the Nicaraguan Navy
The Nicaraguan Navy of Somoza's National Guard consisted of a few old patrol boats in the early 1980s. The Sandinistas acquired more modern vessels, although none were larger than fifty tons....
, to combat the illegal trafficking of narcotics
The illegal drug trade is a global black market, dedicated to cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of those substances which are subject to drug prohibition laws. Most jurisdictions prohibit trade, except under license, of many types of drugs by drug prohibition laws.A UN report said the...
The population of the islands numbered 6,626 as of 2005 (census of population, May 28 to June 11, 2005).
As of early 2009, local authorities estimate the population of Big Corn Island to be 6,200, and that of Little Corn Island to be 1,200. Distribution of tourists is estimated to be roughly 25% at Big Corn Island and 75% at Little Corn Island.
The islanders are English-speaking Creole people
The term Creole and its cognates in other languages — such as crioulo, criollo, créole, kriolu, criol, kreyol, kreol, kriulo, kriol, krio, etc. — have been applied to people in different countries and epochs, with rather different meanings...
of mixed black heritage. In recent years there has been substantial internal migration by Spanish-speaking mestizo
Mestizo is a term traditionally used in Latin America, Philippines and Spain for people of mixed European and Native American heritage or descent...
people from Pacific Nicaragua, and, increasingly, by Miskito people from the Caribbean mainland around Puerto Cabezas
Puerto Cabezas is a municipality in, and capital of, the North Atlantic Coast department of Nicaragua....
. English, long the island's principal language, is being supplanted by Spanish and Miskito
Miskito is a Misumalpan language spoken by the Miskito people in northeastern Nicaragua, especially in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region, and in eastern Honduras....
The municipality of Corn Island is subdivided into six wards (barrios
), five of which are on Big Corn Island, while Little Corn Island constitutes the sixth ward:
(Census May 28-
June 11, 2005)
||La Loma, Long Beach, Queen Hill, Bluff Point
||South End, Mount Pleasant
||Sally Peachie, Little Hill
|Little Corn Island
||island 13 km
|The Village, Carib Town
Big Corn Island has a paved road about 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) long which runs the length of the island. Automobiles, motorbikes and bicycles are the primary means of transport on the island. It is also served by Corn Island's transit system.
The Corn Islands are about 70 kilometres (43.5 mi) away from Bluefields. Corn Island Airport
Corn Island International Airport is an airport that serves Corn Island, Nicaragua. A new terminal has been built and the runway was refurbished so that medium-sized jet aircraft can land the airport. Buses and taxis are both available for transport around the island.It has new X rays, 2...
in the city of Brig Bay is served by La Costeña
La Costeña is an airline based in Managua, Nicaragua. It operates passenger services from Managua to eight domestic destinations as part of the Grupo TACA regional system. Its main base is Augusto C. Sandino International Airport, Managua.-History:...
airlines from Bluefields and Managua
Managua is the capital city of Nicaragua as well as the department and municipality by the same name. It is the largest city in Nicaragua in terms of population and geographic size. Located on the southwestern shore of Lake Xolotlán or Lake Managua, the city was declared the national capital in...
. Big Corn Island can be reached by a ferry that departs once a day from El Rama
El Rama is a municipality in the Región Autónoma del Atlántico Sur department of Nicaragua. It is along the Escondido River which branches off into three other rivers: the Sumi, Rama, and Escondido. It is home to an important Atlantic/Caribbean port. Its population is approximately 50,000...
through the Río Escondido with its mouth at Bluefields. The port is at Southwest Bay on Big Corn Island (World Port Index
The World Port Index contains a tabular listing of thousands of ports throughout the world, describing their location, characteristics, known facilities, and available services. Of particular interest are the applicable volume of Sailing Directions and the number of the harbor chart...
No. 9775). Little Corn Island is accessible by a ferry that departs from Big Corn Island.
Economy and tourism
Throughout most of the 20th century the economy revolved around coconut production. During the 1960s and 1970s, commercial fishing
The fishing industry includes any industry or activity concerned with taking, culturing, processing, preserving, storing, transporting, marketing or selling fish or fish products....
as well as lobster
Lobster fishing, sometimes called lobstering, is the commercial or recreational harvesting of marine lobsters, spiny lobsters or crayfish.-Lobster tools and technology:...
and shrimp fishing
A shrimp fishery is a fishery directed toward harvesting either shrimp or prawns. .-Commercial shrimping:...
, became the main industry. The recent growth in tourism throughout the region, however, has also affected the islands. Tourism on the islands has grown considerably, with its many surrounding coral reef
Coral reefs are underwater structures made from calcium carbonate secreted by corals. Coral reefs are colonies of tiny living animals found in marine waters that contain few nutrients. Most coral reefs are built from stony corals, which in turn consist of polyps that cluster in groups. The polyps...
s making it a popular destination for scuba diving
Scuba diving is a form of underwater diving in which a diver uses a scuba set to breathe underwater....
Snorkeling is the practice of swimming on or through a body of water while equipped with a diving mask, a shaped tube called a snorkel, and usually swimfins. In cooler waters, a wetsuit may also be worn...
The barracuda is a ray-finned fish known for its large size and fearsome appearance. Its body is long, fairly compressed, and covered with small, smooth scales. Some species could reach up to 1.8m in length and 30 cm in width...
s, nurse shark
The nurse shark, Ginglymostoma cirratum, sometimes referred to as the Nur Shark is a shark in the nurse sharks family, the only member of its genus Ginglymostoma...
s, hammerhead's, green sea turtle
The Green sea turtle or green turtle is a large sea turtle of the family Cheloniidae. It is the only species in the genus Chelonia. Its range extends throughout tropical and subtropical seas around the world, with two distinct populations in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans...
s, and spotted eagle ray
The spotted eagle ray is a cartilaginous fish of the eagle ray family, Myliobatidae. It can be found globally in tropical regions, including the Gulf of Mexico, Hawaii, off the coast of West Africa, the Indian Ocean, Oceania, and on both coasts of the Americas at depths down to about . The rays...
s are some of the marine life
Marine biology is the scientific study of organisms in the ocean or other marine or brackish bodies of water. Given that in biology many phyla, families and genera have some species that live in the sea and others that live on land, marine biology classifies species based on the environment rather...
that can be seen around the islands.