Mosquitoes, Miskitos, and Muskets

Mosquitoes, Miskitos, and Muskets

Is the Mosquito Coast infested with mosquitoes?  Or is the coastal name confused with the Miskito Indians? And how did muskets get involved?

How did I get involved?  Grandpa’s journal mentioned a rubber merchant from Bluefields, Nicaragua.  I googled to locate the town.  It’s on the Mosquito Coast.  I assumed the name meant pests, but a search tells me it’s a homonym for the Miskito people.

Who are the Miskitos?  It seems they aren’t an ordinary indigenous tribe.  Escaped slaves, imported from West Africa, hid in the jungle and intermarried with a group of indigenous people.  One website said a slave ship was wrecked, but I haven’t seen that elsewhere.

Then we get into etymology.  The Spanish for mosquito is mosquito.  The Spanish for musket is mosqueta.  The Miskito people who lived on the coast traded with the Buccaneers for muskets and became known as the musket people.  Musketo morphed to Misketo.

Wait!  A Nicaraguan blog informs me the Misketos took their name from Chief Miskut.

The trail of my research has led me into a jungle that I won’t even try to escape.

But I do know Bluefields is, and was, an important port from which not only rubber but gold, silver, sugar, and coffee were shipped to Europe in my grandfather’s time, and we know its name came directly from the Dutch pirate Blewfeldt, who made his base here in the 1700s.

Bluefields, Nicaragua, 1910
By Casa alemana, Bluefields, Nicaragua, c. 1910 ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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