Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Nicaragua 1986: the Battle of Ideas

Denounced as a beachhead of Soviet-style totalitarianism by the American government, Nicaragua after the Sandinista revolution of 1979 was actually a vibrant democracy with an open civic life. What the Americans couldn't handle was that most people in Nicaragua actually supported the FSLN government. There was civil opposition from left, right, and center, with different social classes and strata tending toward different forces and parties. The disagreements were on full display on the walls of the country when I spent a few months there in 1986.

Above is wall graffiti in Managua dating from the 1984 elections. Stencils from the Communist Party of Nicaragua and its trade union federation CAUS are crossed out by a large "FSLN" and the red and black Sandinista colors: the "X" not only defaces the PCdeN graffiti, it alludes to the mark to be made in the ballot. The FSLN won handily.

Above a mural of an FSLN martyr graces a wall in Granada. A handwritten slogan reads "El llanto de las madres exigen aniquilar a los contras de Granada" or "The Cry of the Mothers Demands the Annihilation of the Counterrevolutionaries of Granada." But below the wall's upper panel is graffiti from the PLI, or Liberal Party, one of the center/right parties, reading "Yo Soy Liberal" or "I Am A Liberal" and calls to vote for the Liberal Party's candidate Godoy.

Eden Pastora was one of the heroes of the Sandinista revolution, known as Commander Zero. But he was not a socialist, and shortly after the triumph of the revolution he spectacularly switched sides and joined the side of the Contras. Here on an earthquake-ruined wall in Managua pre-triumph graffiti celebrating Eden Pastora is updated in broad strokes with the word "TRAIDOR" or "TRAITOR."

Finally here's graffiti from the walls of the ruined cathedral in downtown Managua expressing a more fundamental battle of priorities. Competing with "Sandino Vive" or "Sandino Lives," refering to the 1930s revolutionary hero the FSLN is named after, are various obscenities, mostly crude drawings of penises. The empty cathedral was, among other things, a cruising ground for gay men looking for sex and a little privacy.

(All photos by me. Click on the images to see them larger. Many more of my Nicaragua photos can be seen by clicking on the Nicaragua tag below or by clicking here.)