Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Intellectual Foundations of the Sandinista Movement

The Sandinista movement was perceived in America as ideologically Communist, and Ronald Reagan tried to destroy it through the covert Contra invasion. Of course it failed like the Bahia de los Cochinos invasion by John Kennedy. Reading Donald Hodgins, an American academic historian, it appears that, unlike in the CIA and the American government, in the academia it was well known that Marx was not among the intellectual progenitors of the Sandinistas.

Hodgins points out that Nicaraguan worldview was impressed by hundred years of American aggression, first to guarantee that no second transoceanic canal will compete with the Panama Canal.  Second, Nicaragua was "invaded" by American gold miners in transit to California, leaving a rather barbaric impression. Nicaraguans were also aware of the plans transfer the cotton/slave economy of the South, after the victory of the North, to their land. The Marine invasion in the nineteen twenties finally confirmed their fears of becoming an American colony.

Those were the ideological roots of Sandino, nothing to do with Marx or Russia. It is amazing that Reagan could be so blind, seeing Communists where there were none. In fact, the Sandinistas, when in power, held democratic elections and lost. And they moved aside and transferred the government to the Chamorro widow. They spent sixteen years in the opposition to recover the power. Today, the Sandinista leader Ortega and his family rule the country, more or less following the Somoza dynasty model. This time America lets it be. 


  1. One of my favorite stories is that of William Walker: an American who managed to become president of Nicaragua in the 1850s and legalized slavery there. He was quickly pushed out of office, in an effort bankrolled by Cornelius Vanderbilt, who had significant interests in the country during those pre-Panama Canal years.

    One of the young men who fought with Walker, Frederick Townsend Ward, went on to lead a successful Qing-allied force during the Taiping Rebellion.

    Curiously, both men are quite obscure in America today.

    1. Nicaragua was sparsely peopled in the 19th Century, had no roads and no commerce (for example, the country lacked hotels) and a small band of gunmen was a relatively important political/military factor. The weakness of Central American republics was not forgotten: a few years later, an American banana peddler paid a gang to take over Honduras. Those were the times...