The islands of Old Providence and Santa Catalina -located 130 miles of the coast of Nicaragua and around 8.5 square miles in size- have been a center of global trade and commerce since the establishment of an English colony in 1629 and are still occupied by the Native Raizal descendants of the original colonists, African slaves, and members of a coterminous Maroon village to this day. Puritan venture capitalists financed the primary colonization of Old Providence and Santa Catalina –whose members arrived on the Seaflower, sister ship to the Mayflower– one year after the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in what was to become the United States.
From 1629-1630, colonists, under the direction of the Providence Island Company, constructed an administrative center (the Town of New Westminster) and several forts, along with establishing dispersed, plantation-household groups known as ‘families’ that were supervised by a ‘father’ and comprised of wealthy Company investors, apprentices hoping to establish their own plantations, and enslaved Africans; while concurrently establishing colonies in Massachusetts Bay and later, the Eastern Caribbean. The area surrounding the original town, along with dispersed plantation-household groups, and at least one Maroon settlement ultimately evolved into distinct neighborhoods, which are still extant today. Since 1629, the Raizal have been episodically under the administration of England, Spain, English & French privateers, and Colombia.
The Project aims to better understand the Islands’ historical timeline and elucidate localized strategies utilized by Native Raizal peoples, over time, to negotiate the intricate relationships between and among variable stakeholders embedded within the colonial- and modern-industrial complexes, including European colonists, venture-capitalists, and military; Indigenous groups; pre- and post-emancipated peoples of African descent; tenant farmers, agricultural workers, and indentured apprentices and servants; and more loosely affiliated, historically-connected groups such as Maroons, pirates, buccaneers, and privateers. An important aspect of this community-based research seeks to identify the real-world effects of rapidly fluctuating military and administrative power structures on the movement and organization of materials, ideas, and built-environments over time and how diverse –yet connected through colonial spheres of influence– culture histories inform the structures of everyday life and communities of practice for the groups and individuals who currently inhabit this location.
This community-led Project seeks to assist ongoing Native Raizal efforts to untangle the complex culture history of Old Providence and Santa Catalina by collecting oral histories, studying historical documents, and archaeologically exploring three foundational landscapes: 1) the original town of New Westminster  located on the north side of Old Providence Island, 2) a colonial-period Maroon community -made up of self-emancipated individuals- located on the south/southeast side of Old Providence island, and 3) the natural and modified gully systems & terrestrial pathways covering the Islands, utilized since 1629 for intra-island transportation and residential and agricultural water management.
To this end, archaeological and survey tasks focus on gaining a better understanding the Islands’ settlement timeline and understanding behavioral continuity and/or discontinuity, over time; and ethnographic research aims to document Native Raizal stories, art, & culture, catalog familial connections, better understand the Islands’ built-infrastructure and natural landscapes from emic perspectives, and record the English Criol language unique to the Archipelago of San Andrés for posterity.