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The Corn Islands (Spanish: Las Islas del Maíz) are two islands about 70 kilometres (43 mi) east of the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, constituting one of 12 municipalities of the Región Autónoma del Atlántico Sur department. The official name of the municipality is Corn Island (the English name is officially used in Spanish-speaking Nicaragua).
The Corn Islands consist of the 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 (5.0 sq mi). Mount Pleasant Hill in the north of Big Corn Island, is the highest elevation of the islands, at 113 metres (371 ft). Little Corn Island reaches a height of 38 metres (125 ft) at Lookout Point in the northern part of the island.
According to Köppen climate classification, Bluefields features a tropical rainforest climate (Köppen Af). There is a drier period from February to April, but the trade winds ensure that unlike the Pacific coast of Nicaragua, rain still falls frequently during this period. For the rest of the year when tropical low pressure dominates rainfall is extremely heavy, helped by the coast being shaped in such a manner as to intercept winds from the south as prevail during the northern summer.
|Climate data for Corn Islands, Nicaragua|
|Average high °C (°F)||27.8|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||24.9|
|Average low °C (°F)||22.2|
|Precipitation mm (inches)||218|
|Avg. rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm)||19||13||10||10||15||23||26||25||21||21||20||22||225|
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. At one time, the islands were frequented by Caribbean pirates. In 1894, the Nicaraguan government claimed the area.
Under the Bryan–Chamorro Treaty of 1914, the islands were leased to the United States for a period of 99 years. The terms of the lease made the Corn Islands subject to U.S. law, 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 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 of the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty under the presidency of Anastasio Somoza Debayle, on July 14, 1970. The United States Coast Guard however maintains a significant presence in the islands, in coordination with the Nicaraguan Navy, to combat the illegal trafficking of narcotics.
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 of mixed black heritage. In recent years there has been substantial internal migration by Spanish-speaking mestizo people from Pacific Nicaragua, and, increasingly, by Miskito people from the Caribbean mainland around Puerto Cabezas. English, long the island's principal language, is being supplanted by Spanish and Miskito.
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)
|Brig Bay||3,930||west||Brig Bay|
|La Loma||682||south||La Loma, Long Beach, Queen Hill, Bluff Point|
|South End||764||east||South End, Mount Pleasant|
|Sally Peachie||265||northeast||Sally Peachie, Little Hill|
|North End||490||northwest||North End|
|Little Corn Island||495||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 mi) away from Bluefields. Corn Island Airport in the city of Brig Bay is served by La Costeña airlines from Bluefields and Managua. Big Corn Island can be reached by a ferry that departs once a day from El Rama through the Río Escondido with its mouth at Bluefields. The port is at Southwest Bay on Big Corn Island (World Port Index No. 9775). Little Corn Island is accessible by a ferry that departs from Big Corn Island.
Throughout most of the 20th century the economy revolved around coconut production. During the 1960s and 1970s, commercial fishing as well as lobster and shrimp fishing, 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 their many surrounding coral reefs making them a popular destination for scuba diving and snorkeling.
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