Although Spain laid claim to all of Central America in the 16th century, the absence of precious metals, the lack of a large indigenous work force, and the difficult climate and topography kept the Spanish from maintain a physical presence along the Atlantic coast of the isthmus. But for British pirates, the swampy coastal lagoons and rivers were perfect supply and refuge sites; and there were valuable timbers to be harvested.
    In 1655, after capturing Jamaica from Spain, Britain moved into the Atlantic coast to challenge Spain's nominal claim. Based at Providence Island and Cape Gracias a Dios, the British founded settlements along the coast as far north as Belize, the former British Honduras.
    The English colonization of the Atlantic coast was primarily done in two ways: (1) With Indians living along the Miskito Coast of Nicaragua and Honduras, the British traded firearms and metal tools for turtle meat, lumber and fish. They formed alliances with the Miskito Indians, using them as guerilla forces to counter Spanish attempts to regain control. (2) In Belize and in the Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras, they cut logwood and mahogany, grew indigo, sugar and bananas. These industries required a large labor force, so the British brought in African slaves captured from the Spanish or purchased in Jamaica. In Belize, slaves accounted for 71% of the population by 1745.
    Throughout the Caribbean, revolts were breaking out and after the success of the Haitian insurrection in 1803, subjugated people in the Greater and Lesser Antilles were given courage to to fight. On St. Vincent, a group known as the "Black Caribs" revolted under the leadership of their chief Chatoyer. The Black Caribs, were a population of slaves intermixed with the native Carib indians who had resisted both French and British rule from the first attempts at colonization and exploitation. The British defeated the uprising and deported the surviving Black Caribs from St. Vincent to the Bay Islands in Honduras.
    The British presence was soon to be challenged by the emerging power to the north, the United States. Then president, James Monroe, warned the European powers against further colonization in the western hemisphere, leaving the way open for future U.S. expansion. In 1848 the California Gold Rush began and and it was profitable for business interests to provide a fast route to the west coast. Overland, covered wagon crossing was slow and dangerous and so the preferred method was around the continent by steamship, requiring a passageway across Central America. One such route was through Panama, and in 1855 the construction of the Panama Railroad was completed. A shorter route lay to the north of Nicaragua, through the San Juan River. However, the mouth of the San Juan river was a British protectorate and England quickly challenged the right of the U.S. to monopolize transit through the area. The issue was temporarily resolved by the Clayto-Bulwer treaty of 1850, in which it was agreed that neither the U.S. nor Britain would unilaterally build a canal through Central America. The treaty also prohibited either side from attempting to occupy or rule any part of the isthmus.
    Until the 1890's when U.S.' interests moved into the Atlantic coast region to begin large scale banana exports, along with with lesser exports of cocoa, sugar and timbre. This began the era of the Banana Republic whose holdings while primarily in Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama extended to Cuba, Jamaica and Puerto Rico.
    The failure and threat of the French attempt to build a canal on what is now the Columbian/Panamanian border, spurred the the U.S. to build one themselves. The French canal was a costly failure, with thousands of death among the West Indian contract laborers who did the digging. These West Indians imported for something akin to indentured slavery, settled in Panama.
    Spanish, French, British and later the U.S. contributed, if not spurred the trans-atlantic migration of African populations enslaved or revolting in the Caribbean. The maintenance of traditional African cult and the adaptation of the indigenous culture created the diffusionism present today.
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