Unit 4 Destination Discussion - Nicaragua

Advance Preparation

Members of the group should read the first part of Chapter Three of Nicaragua: Living in the Shadow of the Eagle, pp. 25-43.

Please also read the statement on “The Poverty of the Church,” adopted at the Conference of Latin American Bishops in Medellin, Colombia in 1968. This document is mentioned in the chapter you are reading for this unit and is often held up as one of the founding testaments of the movement known as “liberation theology.”


If you are old enough to have lived through the 1970s and 80s, do you remember hearing about the rule of the Somoza family dynasty in Nicaragua?

  • If so, what do you remember hearing about it?

What are some of the patterns that emerge from the co-authors’ account of the history of the U.S. relationship with the Somoza dictatorship?

  • Are there ways in which this relationship evolves over the course of the chapter?
  • Are there ways in which it stays the same?
  • What feelings come up for you when reading this account?
  • Was the U.S. relationship with Somoza an outlier in the history of U.S. foreign relations? Or part of a deeper pattern? What are some similar examples you can think of, if any?

What, if anything, surprised you about the role played by the Catholic Church in the events described in this chapter? What about it didn’t surprise you?

What if anything particularly struck you about the Medellin document?

  • What connections does the document draw between its theological bases and the call to seek social justice in the world?

If you had to write a document grounding your own ideals of social justice in your own theological, religious, or spiritual outlook, what would that look like?

  • In what ways would your document be similar to the Medellin document?
  • In what ways would it be different?

What else surprised you in these readings? What is something you learned from them that you didn’t know before?

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