Thursday, December 23, 2010

Anti-American Art: Welcome and Unwelcome Guests

Strangely enough, during the 1980s when Nicaragua was engaged in a de facto war with the United States, fighting off rebels armed and trained by Ronald Reagan's special forces and CIA, this is the only stamp issued by the Sandinista government that alludes to that conflict. Oh, Nicaraguan stamps were plenty political: they were largely printed in Cuba, which specialized in printing stamps for a number of countries in the vague orbit of the Soviet Union. In fact stamps issued in 1983 showing Karl Marx were distributed by the Reagan government to members of the U.S. congress to prove that the Sandinistas represented the communist threat at the American doorstep. But the stamps with political themes were largely confined to marking the anniversary of the Sandinista revolution, fallen Sandinista martyrs, and occasionally an anniversary of note to the international left.

Incongruously to outsiders, this stamp showing crowds carrying a banner was issued as part of a series marking the visit of Pope John Paul II to Nicaragua in 1983. It reads "Nicaragua Lucha por la Paz" or "Nicaragua Fights for Peace." The depicted banner reads "Por Nuestros Hijos Venceremos la Agresion Imperialista: No Volveran": "For Our Children We Will Defeat Imperialist Aggression: They Shall Not Return." The Sandinistas were hoping the Pope would show the church's commitment to social justice and embrace them. The Pope hated communism much more than he loved social justice and pretty much turned his back.

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