March 06, 2010

Goodbye Nicaragua


I am not sure why, but so far Nicaragua has been my favorite country visited on this trip.

Nicaragua knows what it is to sleep with the elephant.  Nicaragua was occupied by the US between 1912 and 1933, 'assisting' the Nicaraguan government in maintaining order and protecting US citizens and interests.  In 1984, the White House  provided illegal funding to Contra death squads to (unsuccessfully) attempt to overthrow the legitimately elected socialist government.   Despite all this, Nicaragua remains a loyal friend to the US.

Nicaragua is where I really saw the grinding poverty identified with the so called third world.  There are people living in board shacks with dirt floors living right beside people in homes that wouldn't look out of place in, say, Edmonton's Highlands, an older but nice district where the houses are around 1,000 square feet.

Managua is a dusty dirty city that reminds me a bit of what Toronto used to be like before Torontonians convinced themselves that 'Muddy York' was actually a world class city.  Endless, confusing, broken streets lead one from one drab industrial zone to the next.  It is so easy to get lost because it all looks the same.

But there is something here, a spirit that I have noticed before in places where most people don't have much, but are content with what they have.


Something I never knew, but the Sandinistas, the socialist party, have taken their name from Augusto Sandino, a revolutionary and guerrilla general of the 1930's who looks as if he walked out of a Tom Mix Western.   Sandino bears a remarkable resemblance to Canada's Louis Riel.  Both were part native, and made their cause the establishment and preservation of a uniquely American Metis/Mestizo culture.  One was assasinated by the government (Sandino), one was executed by the government (Riel), resulting in both having martyr status in their respective countries.

Sandino, the guerilla general was able to pester US occupation out of Nicaragua in 1933.   

Riel, the politician and messianic leader initiated a defeated rebellion that did succeed in the recognition of the Metis people, culture and status in what became the Province of Manitoba in 1871.

Sandino lives on as a powerful symbol associated with the socialist FSLN despite the fact that he rejected communism and bolshevism. 
Riel became a symbol of English Canadian oppression of the French Canadian people despite the fact that he saw himself as Metis, a race of people descended from the native Indians and a few fur traders.
So here's a question; How long do you suppose this guy, above,



will live right beside this guy, below,







before he starts to ask himself why his neighbor got the the chicken and he got the feathers?

Guess who won the last election?

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