Unit 5 Destination Discussion - Nicaragua

Advance Preparation

Members of the group should read the second part of Chapter Three of Nicaragua: Living in the Shadow of the Eagle, pp. 43-58 (starting with the section “The Sandinistas in Power”).

Please also read this brief article from Indian Country Today, which features an interview with a Miskito Indian activist in Nicaragua:


What kinds of messages, if any, do you remember hearing from the media and popular culture in the 1980s about the Sandinistas and the Nicaraguan revolution? (If you are too young to remember this time, what messages have you heard about them from more recent pop culture, history textbooks, or your own reading?)

  • What was your own view of the Sandinistas and the Contra War at the time these events were unfolding? If you were not alive then, what was your view of them (if any) before starting this curriculum?

The co-authors of Living in the Shadow of the Eagle argue that throughout the period of the Contra War, depictions in the U.S. media of the Nicaraguan Sandinista government were uniformly negative and unfair. They write: “[T]he U.S. media and opposition politicians (perhaps fearing to appear ‘naïve,’ ‘liberal,’ or ‘biased’) rarely challenged the carefully cultivated ‘conventional wisdom.’ Reagan’s tactics for dealing with the Sandinistas could be criticized but not the administration’s picture of the regime itself.” (43)

Similarly, in U.S. popular culture at the time, the Sandinistas were frequently represented as terrorists or Soviet agents. There was even a cheesy 1983 movie made about them, in which the former dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle is portrayed as a hero. You can take a break by watching the lamentable trailer here:
What in the reading for this unit challenged these negative depictions of the Nicaraguan government?

  • Did any of this material change your own preexisting views of the Sandinistas?
  • If so, what feelings came up for you as your views shifted?

The U.S. media’s view of the Nicaraguan government was never the only one to contain implicit biases, of course. Alternatively, some sections of the political left portrayed the Sandinistas as one-dimensional revolutionary heroes, fighting a desperate struggle on behalf of the oppressed.

  • What if anything in the reading for this unit complicates this alternative narrative?
  • If you came to this unit with a highly positive view of the Sandinistas and the Nicaraguan revolution yourself, was there anything in this unit that challenged that view?
  • What feelings came up for you in the process?

The theme of this unit is on “bearing witness” – an act that can be defined as that of seeing and proclaiming truths that are uncomfortable, that challenge vested interests, or that fly in the face of “conventional wisdom” or our own cherished ideas.

  • What important truths, if any, will you take with you from this curriculum and try to proclaim more loudly than you did before?
  • Are there issues today about which you feel the media is too silent or complacent, perhaps out of a fear once again of sounding “’naïve,’ ‘liberal,’ or ‘biased’”?

Take a listen to the song “Washington Bullets” by The Clash, from their album Sandinista!, which makes multiple references to U.S. policies in Latin America.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email