Unit 6 Destination Discussion - Nicaragua

Advance Preparation

Members of the group should read Chapter Four of Nicaragua: Living in the Shadow of the Eagle, as well as Chapter 4 (“Political Culture”) and Chapter 12 (“The Nicaraguan Exception?”) of The Sandinistas and Nicaragua Since 1979.


What are some differences you note between the ways in which these three chapters describe the recent political history of Nicaragua? What are some consistent themes you note across all three? What do these consistent themes tell us about the trajectory of recent Nicaraguan history?

In an earlier chapter, the co-authors of Nicaragua: Living in the Shadow of the Eagle describe one of the techniques the Somozas used for maintaining power as that of “psychologically isolating [members of their own National Guard] from the people by encouraging them to be corrupt and exploitative.” (27).

  • In what ways do corruption and exploitation serve to isolate those who partake of them?
  • Are there ways in which we see corruption and ambition becoming isolating and self-perpetuating forces in Nicaragua’s contemporary history, based on this unit’s readings—particularly in the cases of what the author’s characterize as Nicaragua’s competing caudillos (strong men), Aléman and Ortega?

The chapters from The Sandinistas and Nicaragua Since 1979 both trace the erosion of democratic governance in Nicaragua in the neoliberal era to some older established patterns in Nicaraguan politics. These include patronage, a tendency to depend on the rule of individual caudillos or strongmen, and an attitude of “resigned pragmatism” toward the possibility of progressive change.

  • What aspects of these patterns, if any, seem most alien to your own experience?
  • What aspects, if any, seem most familiar?
  • How would you define the stance of “resigned pragmatism”? Are there ways in which we see “resigned pragmatism” playing a role in U.S. politics as well?

Take a break by listening to the “Sandinista Hymn” – an anthem from the original liberation struggle which Baltodano tells us was retired by the FSLN in the 2006 elections as part of its effort to break with its revolutionary past:

Religions of many kinds place a strong degree of emphasis on “ultimate optimism”—the idea that positive change in the direction of greater social justice is possible, if not inevitable. Whether the Christian notion of realizing the Reign of God, or the vaguer notion of realizing full human potential, people from all faith traditions recognize that human beings have the capacity and responsibility to bring life-affirming change about. It is an attitude that stands at the polar opposite, one might say, of the “resigned pragmatism” that Baltodano depicts as characteristic of politics in the neoliberal age.

  • Are there ways in which you found your ultimate hope for the future challenged by this unit’s readings?
  • If so, are there other things you can take with you from these chapters or from the curriculum as a whole that can replenish that hope?
Print Friendly, PDF & Email