NicaNotes: A Gringo in the Plaza: 40 Years of Sandinista Struggle

David Archuleta Jr., National Co-Coordinator AFGJ

Not even the mosquito-rich Managuan heat could stop the onrush of Nicaraguans from every department in the country to the Plaza de la Fe. They came adorned with FSLN hats, #danielsequeda t-shirts, red and black on every possible accessory. Thousands came by bus, cramming every seat and even filling over the entire length of the roof. There were vendors sweating, vying for eye contact to sell mangos and fresco de tamarindo, even entire teams dedicated to swooping every aluminum can and plastic bottle the moment you dropped it on the ground. Patriotic Sandinista songs played through the massive speakers dispersed throughout the field and one could hear, even smell the smoke, of intermittent firecrackers going off in the confused cloudy and hot sky. It was the 19th of July, the 40th anniversary of the Triumph of the Sandinista Revolution, and the people were ready.

Beyond 40 years of struggle since the victory of the FSLN, what was in the front of every mind was another, more recent victory – over the failed coup of a year before. “Daniel se queda!” (Daniel stays), “Aqui no se rinde nadie!” (Here nobody surrenders), “No podrian, No podran!” (They could not, they cannot) were the most popular phrases of the day. They were printed on almost every shirt, and mentioned in several speeches. They are also commonly written in the form of graffiti on walls in basically every town. I don’t know what Nicaragua was like before a year ago, but I imagine the tagging is in direct response to the US-funded coup. One last time, it seems, the Sandinistas and the popular Nicaraguan Will had triumphed over western imperialism. I was tempted to think of the omnipresent graffiti as sort of a government conspiracy – maybe people were paid to write it? That idea died on July 19th

One can sort of compare the 19th to the super bowl, or the 4th of July, but only to sort of transfer the general celebratory concept over to another mind. In reality they are not comparable because in Nicaragua there survives an ideology diametrically opposed to US Neoliberalism and western materialism, What was absent here was violence of any sort. There were no fights or threats or disagreements that I saw as I was walking even until the late evening in the city center. The people were in unity. Also absent from what I saw were counter protesters of any kind. If a year ago tranqueros (road blockers) were so vehemently against the government that for a time they shut down an entire country, where were they now? I had indeed met Nicaraguans in the opposition but I could not find them on this day. I have met the opposition but they are not so loud anymore. Most of them I have met in shopping malls or upscale locales where things look a little too much like the US for my taste.

I have been in Nicaragua for a month but for the last ten days I have been participating in a delegation organized by the Friends of the ATC (Associacion de Trabajadores del Campo or Farmworkers Association). We had travelled to various incredible locations throughout the country. In Managua we met national hero Doris Tijerino, and in Santo Thomas Chontales we learned with the students from the Latin American Agroecology Institute (IALA – Instituto Agroecological de Latina America). I met a man in Santa Julia who said he used the same AK-47 I have tattooed on my arm in the war against the contras. “It isn’t a god, because one day I will die and I go to god, but this rifle was an angel for me,” he said.

 My home away from home however, is the campesino community of Marlon Alvarado, on the outskirts of Santo Thomas, Carazo. I had been talking to my home stay family there since January and we had been excited for the 19th of July since then. Although my delegation, among others, were invited to sit in the bleachers behind the president, I and a few others decided to celebrate in the plaza with our community. I will probably always think of the time I almost stood on stage with the comandante but I will never forget the experience with my campesino family. We waited all day for them, and they drove 8 hours by bus to reach Managua. After about an hour in the plaza they headed back. We drank flor de caña and laughed and imprinted in my mind forever are the words said to me by my dear friend Antonio, “You could have sat with the president but instead you chose to stand with us pobres, us peasants. For us that is an honor.” Later he opined, “Tell the truth of Nicaragua to the people of the world! Tell the truth of our beautiful and peaceful country. Just go and tell the truth! That is all I ask.” So I have my duty.

From behind the obelisk in the plaza I was paralyzed by the intensity of a single series of moments, where for a time I not only saw but experienced and became immersed in the totality of popular unity. In the great sea of waving Sandinista flags all around me the people sang in unison to a beat I had never heard.

“F de fuerza insobornable! (F for incorruptible force!)

S de sol de libertad! (S for the Sun of liberty!)

L de lucha inclaudicable! (L for the unyielding Struggle!)

N de no retroceder! (N for no retreat!)”

-“La Consigna FSLN” by Carlos Mejia Godoy

 

Inside of my ribcage my heart rattled like a loose cigarette to foreign drums and beneath the awe of an impenetrable political matrix. What had up until that moment been only an abstraction of social science came rushing into my consciousness as manifested material experience. One might stand to quote Carlos Fonseca or give an overview of the popular economy, but all true knowledge comes from experience and this was another understanding altogether. I comprehended so many things that seemed jarring before but now fell into place at once. I stood next to Roberto, the hardened veteran of the triumphant war, who militantly galloped his flag with patriotic pride gushing from his every follicle. I don’t think I saw him blink; he was in his moment. 

National pride was the most tangible concept I experienced that day. I am quite lucky to view most things in complete covertness. My Mexican face lets me really be a fly on the wall of Nicaraguan life and if I don’t talk I can really see things as they are. But my gringo mouth betrays my Nicaraguan soul. 

A drunkard came up to me and immediately after I greeted him he growled, “No eres Nica.” (You are not Nicaraguan). “How did you know?” “Your accent.” He kept naming countries until he asked me if I was from the US. I didn’t know how to respond because his anger was bellowing out of his every breath. He told me he hated the US, and he meant it. “Yo soy Nica. Yo soy Sandinista hasta la muerte, perro.” (I am Nicaragua. I am Sandinista until death, dog). Again my tattoo revealed my substance, and he recognized my spirit and not my tongue. “Somos amigos por siempre, perro,” he said as he draped his worn FSLN flag around me like an Olympic athlete. 

The people at this event were not mere supporters of vague political concepts or fill-ins at a public event they felt that they should be at. They are from their feet to their temples proud with every fiber of their sinews of being Nicaraguan, of being Sandinista. They live with the pride of their national culture, of the party, of Daniel.

So what is the truth, really? In the postmodern world we are fighting an information war, it is fourth generation warfare. It is the war of cell phones and Facebook. And those who were so confident in their lambast last year are now beginning to wake up. It is quite surreal, to have revealed before you the matrix that you live in. All that is solid melts into air all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

People all over the world every day are waking up to the fact that our western media is complete fabrication, that it is funded and directed by those with their own interests in mind. Nicaragua really is a peaceful country. The crisis last year affected so many families in so many negative ways. From talking to the families and people that I know it is apparent that the crisis was an abhorrent anomaly in the actual daily life of Nicaragua. It is apparent that it was caused by an outside source. I have heard stories of murders at the road stops, and mistreatment of all kinds. People couldn’t get to work. What popular uprising literally prevents the poor from working and extorts from them when using the roads? I heard the campesinos created organic armed groups in every community to oust the roadblocks. No wonder they celebrated, they had lost lives taking back their country. I wasn’t there but other Friends of the ATC attended a funeral of one such man who died trying to restore peace. It wasn’t just a media war but a violent one against the Sandinistas. We just didn’t know that because they lied about it.

So our duty now, as solidarity activists or just as people of conscience in our bleak world, is to spread the truth. If you are looking for a more precise truth you can find it in AFGJ’s extraordinary ebook Live from Nicaragua : Uprising or Coup? There you will find the truth you seek. You can download it for free at afgj.org or tortillaconsal.com.

You can join a delegation also by going to the Friends of the ATC website. We are living now in a changed world and Nicaragua and Venezuela and Bolivia and Cuba are all testaments to that – it is the dawn of multipolarity and the death march of imperialism. It is commonly understood here in Nicaragua that it is the government, not the people, of the United States that kills Latin Americans. One can only hope that someday in my own country, in the United States, the dragon of the masses will wake up and realize they have only their own noose to cut. One day it will not be mere NGO volunteers or weekend activists in the states, but the popular will unified and drenched in the spirit of their own victory.

BRIEFS

Daniel Ortega Invites All Nicaraguans to Join Forces to Eradicate Poverty
Speaking before several hundred thousand people gathered at the Plaza de la Fe in Managua to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution, President Daniel Ortega called on all Nicaraguans to join forces in productive activity to eradicate poverty and unemployment. He added that, in spite of budget cuts, the government is continuing to build roads, schools, health centers and hospitals. In the area of foreign affairs, Ortega spoke out against economic sanctions saying that they were forms of aggression employed in an open, shameless manner. He noted that no nation had the right to impose sanctions that were not based on international law. A nation which imposed such sanctions was committing crimes and such actions should not be permitted, he insisted. “In the end, who suffers?” he asked, continuing, “It is the people who suffer and how can they play like that with the lives of the people?”

Ortega noted that among the foreign guests at the anniversary rally were members of the group Veterans for Peace from the United States. He noted that these were former members of the armed forces of the US who were now convinced that the path for humanity was that of peace. Among them, he stated, was Brian Willson who lost his legs when he tried to stop a train carrying arms to Central America. “A real hero for peace,” Ortega added. Ortega said that his government remains ready to dialogue with workers, artisans, and producers of all sizes, with all those who want to work for the social and economic development of the country. The elections will come in 2021 and we will be ready to win them, he said. He insisted that all the electoral reforms will be done in accord with the constitution so that no one will be able to protest afterward “that we stole the elections.” (El Digital 19, 7/20/19)

Cuba says Nicaragua’s success pains imperialism
Cuban First Vice President Salvador Valdés Mesa participated in the July 19 celebrations in Managua stating that the triumph of the Sandinistas represents a victory against foreign intervention and reaffirmed the willingness of the Cuban and Nicaraguan peoples to struggle and resist imperialism. Gathered in the Plaza de La Fe, more than 500 international guests accompanied thousands of Nicaraguans during the celebration. Vice President Rosario Murillo insisted “At 40 years, full of glory, youth, history, and future, the Sandinista Popular Revolution marches on successfully and proudly.” “Nicaragua pains them, love pains them, we sing, on the 40th anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution, that changed Latin American history,” wrote Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez on Twitter. Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla recalled the words of Commander in Chief Fidel Castro, who said, “The Sandinista victory is not only a victory over 45 years of Somoza; it is a victory over 150 years of foreign domination.” (Granma, July 22)

Spanish edition of Live From Nicaragua released
Many of the authors of Live From Nicaragua: Uprising or Coup?, published by the Alliance for Global Justice, held a press conference at the Casa Ben Linder to announce release of the Spanish language version of the reader that sets the record straight about what went on in Nicaragua from April to July in 2018 and why. The Spanish version is entitled, Nicaragua 2018: Levantamiento Popular O Golpe de Estado?.  Over 20 authors contributed to the book which is available free of charge in e-book and pdf versions both Spanish and English. You can download it in any version on the AFGJ website at https://afgj.org/nicanotes-live-from-nicaragua-uprising-or-coup (El 19, July 18)

Establishing gardens in public schools
The Ministry of Education (MINED) and the Nicaraguan Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) are promoting the Comprehensive School Nutrition Program, through the creation of family gardens in 250 public schools throughout the country. Each center has received shovels, rakes, wheelbarrows, sprinklers, and chicken wire, along with fruit and vegetable seeds, as well as equipment for the production of organic fertilizer. The purpose of the program is to promote healthy eating habits, enriching school meals with highly nutritious products. (Nicaragua News, July 18)

Improving school infrastructure
Salvador Vanegas, presidential adviser for educational affairs, announced that the Ministry of Education will be inaugurating improvements in four schools in four municipalities in the departments of Boaco and Masaya. Vanegas explained that the US$1.7 million investment is being used to build new classrooms, media rooms, libraries, bathrooms, perimeter walls and to purchase furniture. The improvements will benefit students of different educational levels in the four municipalities. (Nicaragua News, July 16)

More small businesses established
Vice President Rosario Murillo presented the monthly report on growth of new small business ventures. The Vice President noted that between June 15 and July 15 of this year, 1,204 new businesses were created. These are small and medium size businesses that have created 6,020 jobs in areas such as sales of food products, mechanical workshops, business, finance, and tourism services. This year new ventures have generated a total of 34,175 new jobs. (Nicaragua News, July 17)

New road being built in Nueva Segovia
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MTI) reported on the construction of the Macuelizo-Ococona-Santa María highway, in the department of Nueva Segovia. The project includes construction of 28.6 kilometers of paving, curbs, ditches, bus stops and platforms in urban areas which will help to improve circulation, access to health services, education and transport of agricultural products for commercialization. The project has an initial financing of US$7.3 million from the World Bank and will benefit more than 200,000 inhabitants. The US NICA Act, intended to cut off Nicaragua’s access to international financing does not yet appear to be having a serious effect on Nicaragua’s ability to gain international loans. (Nicaragua News, July 16)