Fifteen years ago, after an enigmatic foreign businessman arrived on Nicaragua's Mosquito Coast, seven Pearl Cays wound up on the international private island market. They were purchased by a cast of eccentric, far-flung characters: a British Playboy Bunny and her family, with a reality show crew in tow; a New Age dandy from New Zealand with an identically dressed brood and aspirations for jet-setting fame; a French inventor who dreamed of owning his own sportfishing resort.
They came, and they built. But almost as soon as they arrived, the protests began. The islands were constitutionally protected communal lands, the people of Pearl Lagoon argued. One of the country’s most well-known human rights lawyers, a tenacious U.S.-trained attorney named María Luisa Acosta, took on the case. Weeks later, her husband was found tortured and murdered. Acosta fled the coast, and the people of Pearl Lagoon went quiet. In the years since, the men who Acosta believes ordered the killing remain free, and these specks of Caribbean real estate have been transformed.