Tag Archives: Sandinista

Nicaragua Day 2: A sense of persistence against tremendous odds

MANAGUA — The entire Managua tour bus erupted with laughter when the guide suggested that Canada was a balanced country.

The young Nicaraguan was trying to describe how Nicaragua had skittered from the “dictatorship” of Anastasio Somoza to the “dictatorship” of the Sandinistas. Canada was supposed to be a model of what his country truly needed – balance.

Yet he describes Daniel Ortega, recently re-elected in 2011 as Nicaragua’s President, as a champagne socialist who portrays himself as a “practical socialist.”


That practical side is raising eyebrows as the Sandinistas have a new slogan – Christianity, Socialism and Solidarity – a sign that the Sandinistas were finding new accommodation with the conservative Catholic Church. There is even a faith park near the National Palace with an obelisk commemorating the visit of Pope John Paul II.

Managua is an odd city. Scarred and scared by the 1972 earthquake that devastated the Nicaraguan capital, there are few high-rise buildings despite a population of 1.4 million people. The low-rise capital is spread out overlooking Lake Managua and a distant landscape of volcanos. The guide tells us that earthquakes are a regular part of life here, the ground under their feet rattling at least once a month.

The capital Managua.

The capital Managua.

It is also a young city, but different from our own. When wages are so low, the population doesn’t wander around staring at their smart phones. For most, things are decidedly low-tech here.

While the setting is dramatic, the city is far from attractive, much of the historic architecture that most cities exploit for tourism purposes lost to either natural disaster or revolution. While Nicaragua is a beautiful country, Managua is a visual blight in it.

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Nicaragua Day 1: In the flash of this moment

“In the flash of this moment / you’re the best of what we are / don’t let them stop you now / Nicaragua.” – Bruce Cockburn (1984)

MANAGUA – Nearly 30 years ago I had lunch with Bruce Cockburn as preparation for a feature I was to write about the singer-songwriter’s tour of Guatemala and Nicaragua. Having lunch in the old Hotel Nova Scotian, I asked Bruce about his trip, and it was more than an hour before I got to ask the second question, not that I needed to ask any more.

While I did my best to tell his story of witnessing the early days of the Sandinista revolution and the horrors he learned of in Guatemala, he said it best himself with the album Stealing Fire. One minute he’s angrily pounding out “If I Had A Rocket Launcher,” the next stirring hope with “Nicaragua” or “Dust and Diesel.”


Cockburn was not the only pop culture artist to get swept up the aftermath of the Sandinista revolution. Rolling Stone magazine still considers the Clash’s “Sandinista” to be among the top 500 albums of all time. It seemed everyone was watching Nicaragua.

Thirty years on you don’t hear as much about this Central American nation wedged between Costa Rica to the south, El Salvador and Honduras to the north, bordered east and west by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. As part of my preparations to come here I spoke with someone at my bank, who wanted to know how one spelled ‘Nicaragua’ and where it was.

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