Project Description


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 [1629] 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.

Download 2024 Syllabus
Course Details
Course Dates May 25-June 19, 2024
Course Type Historical Archaeology, Ethnography & Community Oriented Outreach
Instructors Dr. Tracie Mayfield
Credits* 8 semester (12 quarter)
Apply By April 1
Fees Due By Summer 1 (May 1)
Program Fees
Tuition $4,475
Transcript Fee* $300
Health & Evacuation Insurance $125
Room & 1/2 Board $1,430
TOTAL: $6,330
Apply Now!

Applications accepted on a rolling basis until program fills or final deadline above. 


The directors welcome emails and inquiries about the research elements of this project. More general information (tuition, health insurance, and payment schedule) can be found under the ‘Students’ tab above. Any further questions may be addressed to IFR staff. Additional details about research, course schedule, travel, accommodation, and safety can be found on the syllabus. Contacting the directors or the IFR office is encouraged and appreciated. It may help you determine if this field school is a good fit for you.

Dr. Tracie Mayfield
Dr. Tracie Mayfield
Dr. Mayfield is a lecturer at University of Southern California.


Field School testimonials coming soon!

Payment & Student Fees

Application Fee: There is a $45 fee to submit an online application.

Deposit Payment: A nonrefundable $500 deposit is due within 3 weeks of program acceptance in order to secure your place. The remainder of your program fees are due by the deadline indicated under “Course Details”.

*Transcript Fee & Academic Credit Opt Out: If you wish to participate in an IFR field school without earning academic credits, you will not be charged a transcript fee.

For more information about payment, fees, and policies, please see details under our Payment & Finances and Withdrawal and Cancellation Policy pages.


Students and faculty will be housed at Posada Enilda Bed and Breakfast located in the south of the Island in an area called Bottom House. Students do not need to reserve their own rooms, this will already be taken care of before they arrive. This posada is a fully modern facility with comfortable outdoor seating areas, shared dining room, and other amenities, such as air-conditioning, in- room safes, and personal refrigerators, and is extremely comfortable. The husband and wife owners are excited about hosting the students and we have enjoyed our stays in past years, immensely. Security cameras monitor the grounds and the main gate is locked at night. Old Providence is a safe island, with little serious crime.

Room and board at the Posada includes breakfast every day, and lunch Monday-Saturday, which will be served in the field or in the dining area at Posada Enilda. Dinners will not be provided by the program, but there are restaurants nearby and food can be ordered and delivered to the Posada. Additionally, grocery stores are available on the Island where students can purchase food; each room has a refrigerator where meal and snack supplies can be stored.   

The owners of the Posada can meet most dietary needs (vegetarians, vegans, and lactose intolerant), other than Kosher, although if given enough advance time to order supplies and with specific instructions/ consultation, the Posada may be able to meet Kosher needs as well, so please contact the Director if this is of interest to you. Laundry services are also offered at the Posada; which you can request when you check in after arriving on site.

Rooms are cleaned by the Posada staff every other day, but students are required to take steps to ensure proper daily cleaning such as wiping down shared areas (e.g. bathroom, desks, door handles, etc.) multiple times a day and depositing trash in the outside receptacles each time you leave your room. Students should either bring disinfecting products or plan on buying cleaning materials soon after arriving.

There is a laundry facility onsite where you can do your own laundry for free. If you would like laundry services (pick-up and delivery outside your room), you can request and pay for this service at the front desk.

Travel Info

Natural disasters, political changes, weather conditions and various other factors may force the cancellation or alteration of a field school. IFR recommends students only purchase airline tickets that are fully refundable and consider travel insurance in case a program or travel plans must change for any reason.

General information for this program is below, but keep in mind we will discuss any updated travel information and regulations during the required program orientation, which could affect travel plans.

Students can fly through Bogotá, Colombia; Belize City, Belize; or Panama City, Panama. We recommend Panama City because the flights are generally less expensive than going to Bogotá and more frequent than going through Belize City. The Panama City Airport is a modern, well-appointed facility and the hub for Copa Airlines.

From either Bogotá, Belize City, or Panama City students will need to fly to San Andrés Island (Gustavo Rojas Pinilla International Airport – ADZ) in Colombia.

Getting to this point is very straightforward and can be booked through any of the major travel websites.

Students can then either fly to El Embujo Airport (PVA) or take a boat from San Andrés Island to Providence Island. SATENA, San Germán Express and Decameron airlines fly twice daily and the flight takes 20 minutes. Alternatively, a catamaran service by Conocemos Navegando sails early in the morning from San Andrés five times a week: Mon, Wed, Thurs, Fri and Sun. The catamaran departs San Andrés at 8:00am and travel time is 3.5 hours; return trips to San Andrés depart at 2:30pm. If students need to spend the night on San Andrés we recommend the Hotel Casablanca, which is located on the beach.

Program staff will meet students either at the Old Providence Island airport or catamaran seaport.

If you missed your connection or your flight is delayed, please call, text or email Program Director immediately. A local emergency cell phone number will be provided to all enrolled students.

Visa Requirements
All U.S. citizens who do not also hold Colombian citizenship must present a valid U.S. passport to enter and depart Colombia. U.S. citizens traveling to Colombia do not need a Colombian visa for a tourist stay of 90 days or less. Travelers entering Colombia are sometimes asked to present evidence of return or onward travel, usually in the form of a plane ticket. The length of stay granted to travelers is determined by the Colombian immigration officer at the point of entry and will be stamped in your passport. Before the visa expires, travelers may request an extension of up to 90 days.

All persons entering Colombia are assessed a fee of USD $40 or its equivalent in Colombian Pesos (COP) in addition to the airfare or boat fare. Where this fee is collected may vary based on the students’ point of entry into the country. Students are not assessed this fee when leaving Providence Island.

Citizens of countries other than the United States are asked to check the embassy website page at their home country for specific visa requirements.

Student Safety

The IFR primary concern is with education. Traveling and conducting field research involve risk. Students interested in participating in IFR programs must weigh whether the potential risk is worth the value of education provided. While risk is inherent in everything we do, we do not take risk lightly. The IFR engages in intensive review of each field school location prior to approval. Once a program is accepted, the IFR reviews each program annually to make sure it complies with all our standards and policies, including student safety.

Students attending IFR international programs are covered by a comprehensive Health Insurance policy that includes physical illness or injury, mental or chronic conditions. No deductible and 100% of costs are covered up to $250,000. In addition, we provide Political and Natural Disaster Evacuation policy, which allow us to remove students from field school location if local conditions change. Our field school directors are scholars that know field school locations and cultures well and are plugged in into local communities and state institution structures.

Students attending IFR domestic programs (within the US) must have their own health insurance and provide proof upon enrollment. IFR field school directors are familiar with local authorities and if in need of evacuation, local emergency services and/or law enforcement will be notified and activated.

The IFR has strong, explicit and robust policy towards discrimination and harassment in the field. If students feel they cannot discuss personal safety issues with field school staff, the IFR operates an emergency hotline where students may contact IFR personnel directly.

Call (877-839-4374) or email ( if you have questions about the safety of any particular program.