Thursday, July 20, 2006

Sandinista Pride

Turns out that July 19 is the anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution here in Nicaragua. Even though the Sandinista’s aren’t in power now, it’s still celebrated as a national holiday, and the Sandinistas hold a huge rally in Managua’s central plaza. Not one to miss a populist political demonstration, I had to attend.

In my estimation there must have been hundreds of thousands of people who showed up. Buses poured in from all over Nicaragua, bringing Sandinista partisans adorned in Che Guevara T Shirts and waving red and black flags. The atmosphere was festive. Vendors were selling all sorts of food, beer, rum, even toys for the kids. There was a large stage set up on one end of the plaza, but for the most part people didn't pay too much attention to the speeches and dance performances up on the stage. Instead, families just hung out and had fun. Kids played while parents drank (sometimes excessively). It was a demonstration of pride: in Nicaragua, in Latin America, in anti-Imperialism. Thousands and thousands of people were waving their Sandinista flags enthusiastically, clearly proud to be celebrating the ideology of Sandinismo. But then there were lots and lots of people who were just there to celebrate for the sake of celebrating. How many people there at the plaza were planning to vote for the Sandinistas in October's elections? That remains to be seen.

For those who aren't familiar with Nicaraguan history, the Sandinistas emerged in the 1970s as a guerilla movement that was opposed to then-dictator Somoza. The Somoza family ruled Nicaragua for much of the 20th century. If anyone criticized the dictator, that person would be promptly "disappeared" and never seen again. For many years the US supported Somoza because he protected American business interests in Central America. Harry Truman is quoted as once saying, "He may be a bastard, but at least he's our bastard." But in the late 1970s, Somoza made the mistake of murdering a US journalist and lost the backing of the US government. Finally, in 1979 the Sandinistas were able to topple Somoza's government, and they promptly instituted a socialist regime in Nicaragua. However, by 1990 many Nicaraguans were dissillusioned with the Sandinistas, and they were voted out of power. Since then the Sandinistas have been an important political party, but have never recaptured the presidency. Every election since 1990 has seen Daniel Ortega, the Sandinista leader, lose to his opponents. This coming November there's going to be another election, and word on the street is that Ortega may actually win. Nothing is certain in politics, especially in Latin America, so it will be interesting to see what happens in November.


At 4:20 PM, Anonymous shirley lund said...

jamie i just finished your most recent entries and as usual find them most interesting. i was so happy to receive your telephone call last week. your voice sounded so clear. i look forward to hear more of your adventures when you travel to that small island soon. keep well-love grandma

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At 5:19 AM, Anonymous Sam said...

Hey Jaime,

Is Nicaragua still in the 1980s??? Imperialism from who??? Cuba or Venezuela??? After what the Sandinistas did to Nicaragua I doubt the US has any interest in it. It is now the 2nd poorest country in the western hemisphere. The Sandinistas need to grow out of the past and get rid of Ortega? Do they not have any good leaders? It seems like they can't find anyone to replace Ortega. Well for the freedom and democracy of Nicaragua let's just hope the democractic parties unite and ensure that Ortega finally gets the hint that Nicaragua does not want him anymore or does he want to be like Somoza and form the Ortega Dynasty? So that a new group of revolutionaries kick him out of power??? Well thanks for letting me comment, hope you are enjoying the weather in Managua!!!

At 9:41 PM, Blogger LeftyHenry said...

Hey Sam, The Sandinistas were the best thing ever to happen to Nicagua. They destroyed illiteracy which was at 50% during Somoza, repayed all of the 2 billion dollar debt, instituted democratic elections (that's how they got out of power) and brought free and quality healthcare to all. Nicaragua is the 2nd poorest country thanks to the corrupt capitalist puppet democracy that has took the Sandinista's place.

At 8:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

leftyhenry you are a misinformed imbecile. Nicaragua under the "Somoza Regime" had one of the highest literacy rates. The majority of the people were bilingual. The blame should be placed with Carter and American Companies who pulled out at the last minute.


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