Written by Marilyn Lorenz, IFCLA Co-Founder and former Program Coordinator
July 19, 1979. The Sandinistas converged on Managua. “Patria Libre o Morir.” Nicaragua Libre. The Somoza Dynasty was toppled as Anastasio Somoza Debayle fled the country with his parents’ coffins and all the money from the National Treasury. The young leaders promised a hopeful and more just future for all Nicaraguans.
As Carlos Fonseca junior, the son of the FSLN’s (Sandinista National Liberation Front) founder, remembers:
“The revolution was so exciting and inspiring that it marked the lives of all the Nicaraguans who were just entering adolescence. We could be optimistic and dream.”
IFCLA was yet to be born (1982) but the Latin America Solidarity Committee was two years old and embraced a new future for Nicaraguans. We raised funds for the literacy campaign and held teach-ins to educate St Louis about the new Nicaragua. (You can read more about our organizational history here.)
The euphoria was short lived as armed groups entered Nicaragua from US bases in Honduras to begin what was known as the “Contra” War. Generous volunteers joined Witness for Peace: Mary Dutcher, Virginia Druhe, Jeanne Abbott and others served as a long-term presence in the war zone after 1983. Many went on delegations to learn about the reality. The Pledge of Resistance organized to do civil disobedience if the US attacked Nicaragua and to advocate in Congress for the end to US funding for the “Contras.”
Now, forty years later, are we celebrating? That’s a hard question. Solidarity with Nicaragua is not dead but it is complicated. Sr. Maggie Fisher returned to Nica after she completed her service as Program Coordinator of IFCLA in 1994. The Rio Abajo Hermanamiento Project responded to the devastation after Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Kathy Peterson and Dan Mosby lived in Nicaragua with their daughter for a year or so. Nan McCurdy continues to write commentary about what is happening today.
For so many reasons that we cannot pursue in this small space, the dreams and hopes of July 19, 1979, have faded for many and the struggles in recent years show how hard it is to remain faithful to ideals and expectations. Some say the leaders have betrayed the revolution, others will say something else. One cannot deny the influence of the US in denying, meddling and interfering in Nicaraguan affairs. Nicaraguans of all social and political affiliations have a responsibility for their past and their future. We can only hope that the future can be more just and commit as an IFCLA family will continue to accompany our friends in their times of trouble.