Nicaragua resurgent

“I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909–1912.
—Retired Major General Smedley Butler, United States Marine Corp


From the rim of Masaya
I see heroes in all directions
Enshrouded in rising vapors,

No place to linger
I put my eyes all around
There! Above me
a centuries-old wooden crucifix
planted deep in the volcanic soul of the Maseta Central
by a priest who tried in vain to kill the devil
But the devil lingered
returned from time to time,
No Senor!
No, never

IMG_6627Friar Francisco de Bobadilla, with a few Indian converts (slaves actually) attempts to baptize Volcan Masaya, 1529

Sabes que amigo?
Yo grito lo siguiente…

(You know what friend?
I shout the following…)

In 1847 he returned
aboard Royal Navy sailing ships
pride of a Queen
far removed from the tropical sun
Hell Britannia

British AdmiralsA glamourized Anglo portrayal of British Admirals who gallantly defended British interests and subjects… worldwide

in 1856 he returned
in the form of a racist gringo
who sat uneasily
on a throne of his own imagination

161481_mLong overdue execution of the “filibustero” William Walker, 1860

In 1912 he returned
at gunpoint
flexing his norteamericano muscles

Nicaragua_USMarines1912_01_fullU. S. Marines proudly display the captured banner of Augusto Cesar Sandino, somewhere in Nicaragua, 1932 

capturing Coyetepe
brave Marines doing their duty
no questions asked

marines-coyotepe-hillTwo Marines pose for a photo at the base of Coyetepe Hill, 1912

but General Smedley Butler knew better
Nearby, Sandino the young witness
he didn’t forget

1927-08-07-Salesmanship-St Louis Post-Dispatch

Salesmanship indeed, political cartoon, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Another american aviation acheivement-27-07-22-LouisvilleCourier-Journal

“Another American aviation acheivement”, July 27, 1922, Louisville Couier-Journal

nor did La Republica de Nicaragua
“Boots on the ground”?
No, boots on Nicaragua’s throat
and not for the last time

IMG_3901View from the ramparts of Coyetepe Fortress, in the distance…Volcan Mombacho    
IMG_3904Empty gun emplacements  atop Coyetepe Fortress
IMG_6659Tunnel of horrors or just soldier’s barracks? Dungeons inside Coyetepe Fortress, where it is rumored Somoza’s thugs interrogated their political enemies, Sandinistas supposedly did the same after their rise to power in the early 1980’s. Such repression by both sides might not have taken place within these graffiti-covered walls, but its a meaningless question, we know it did occur, throughout the country. 

From 1934 to 1979 he returned
a hydra-headed family
mutherfuckers all
bullies all

Perón_y_SomozaThey look sharp in their military outfits and can give a rousing  patriotic speech, they must be good guys, right?  That’s whats this gullible 1940’s Buenos Aires welcoming crowd seems to believe. Somoza Senior(left) with Argentine strongman Juan Peron (right).

darling of American Presidents
“our man in Managua”
thrice said
a family tradition of theft
like Stalin, Mussolini and Hitler
he made the trains run on time
some people were satisfied with that
they liked
“la mano duro”
nostalgia for the good ‘ol days
depends on who you talk to

Meeting_with_President_Anastasio_Somoza_Debayle_of_Nicaragua,_before_State_Dinner_-_NARA_-_194723-perspective-tilt-cropHappy times in Yanquilandia, a well-fed Dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle enjoys a few laughs with Tricky Dick Nixon and Security Advisor, Brigadier General Al Haig, before feasting at a state dinner,  1972
Managua 1972
Managua earthquake, 1972, left the city center in utter ruin. Most of the money and aid generously sent to Nicaragua by donors around the world was pocketed by Somoza and members of his inner circle of friends and family. 
NICARAGUA. Masaya. June 8, 1979. Popular forces begin final offensive.One of many famous photographs by Susan Meisalas, “Pictures from a Revolution”

In 1979 he returned….

War, everywhere
But it had to be
English monarchs didn’t give a damn about the poor
neither did United Fruit Company
neither did Somoza
Malcolm X was right
Ain’t gonna turn the other cheek no more
Landmines in schoolyards
helicopter gunships
house to house fighting
It’s payback time
Commander Zero
my brother Julio served under him
somewhere on the Southern Front
maybe also under Commander Two
(a brave woman, Dora Maria Tellez)
distracted the National Guard
just long enough
while other cities fell
to Ortega & Company
Bolivian mercenary
chasing the Che dream

IMG_3631 My father asking,
“Que es de Julito, donde esta?”
(“What’s up with Julito, where is he?”
in the jungles Papa
dead or alive?
honestly, I don’t know
You must know!
no letters sent home
Mama was stressed
Roxanna, his wife, also stressed
he has bad memories
but no regrets

the naive hitchhiker
from LA to Panama
by thumb, hoofing it too
unaware that Nicaragua was rising up
standing up for itself, again
sleeping in a truck
outside a whorehouse, suddenly
pre-dawn stillness is shattered

IMG_3666 mortar rounds and machine gun fire
the driver comes hurrying out
bedraggled, shirtless, but calm and resolute
no fear
just gotta get out of this place before we die
Motor revved up
in 4th gear quickly and speeding awayIMG_3696
up ahead, a young boy of, I don’t know, maybe 11 or 12
on horseback, a rifle strapped across his back
incredible, whips his mount
sprints across the highway in front of us
disappears into a maze of trees and grasses

IMG_3955 Thump, thump, thump
never heard mortar rounds before
Hours later I’m in Costa Rica
Was it all a dream?
No Senor.

In the 1980’s he returned
Managua is rubble
this before the revolution
1972 was a bad year

  President Reagan pushes for free elections
most people South of the Border don’t believe him
not after decades of exploitation
and silence on the subject of liberty
A new war begins
Freedom Fighters, Contras
there are abuses
on both sides
the innocent suffer
Sandinistas don’t do themselves any favors
moving into luxurious homes
massacring Miskito Indians
and not just a few

And then, in 1998
the heavens cried
we all cried for Nicaragua
when Hurricane Mitch stalled

Hurricane_Mitch_1998_oct_26_2028ZHurricane Mitch as seen from space, October 26, 1998

Later, Ortega buddies up with the Castro Brothers
aging island despots who, like Somoza
will not let the people breathe
the air of freedom.
Many Latinos fail to see the contradiction
doesn’t matter
We are all Chavez! they say

are we all Ahmadinejad too?
Issuing laments for the demise
of Gaddafi and Hussein
Ortega takes the low road
didn’t have to be this way Senor Presidente
like many Latino leaders
elected or not
its always more popular
especially at rallies
to spit at Uncle Sam
than to look in the mirror

NICARAGUA-INAUGURA_2105823bA strange triumvirate, now minus one, that shared a common bond, a mutual distaste for America and no love for Israel
IMG_3476      Young boy selling small bags of water in the plaza in front of the Palacio Nacional as two of the nation’s most famous sons look on

Pobre Nicaragua!
how much can the people take?
Strength Beyond Measure
That’s what Nicaraguans are
Strength Beyond Measure
you can see it in dusty villages on Ometepe Island
still in love with life

quick to show daily courtesies
and to laugh

and sing
bring out the guitars compadres!
Let’s sing sad songs together

IMG_6546Street performers heading home after a gig on the plaza in Granada

Oye Padre Bobadilla!
you meant well, I know
but you angered a volcano
Must we pay forever
for your fuck up?

No Senor
I pray not

IMG_4027In the countryside near Leon, looking northeast towards Volcan Momotombo

The Life is mystery; the Light is blind;
The Truth beyond our reach both daunts and fades;
The sheer perfection nowhere do we find;
The ideal sleeps, a secret, in the shades.

                                                                                                    -Cantos de Vida y Esperanza                                                                                                   (Songs of Life and Hope), Ruben Dario

Postscript; I’ve only been to Nicaragua twice in my life, once as I traveled thru in the summer of 1978, and again just a month ago, my first time back in 36 years, so hard to believe. What struck me so deeply on this return visit, besides the warmth and hospitality of just about everyone I met, was how the current society has moved beyond the stereotypical world view of Nicaragua. Of course the Sandinista Revolution is a defining event in the country’s history, like America and its own Civil War, or Mexico and the revolution of 1910, but meanwhile life goes on. There’s work to be done, investments to be made, mouths to feed. Oh sure there are monuments, statues, anniversary celebrations and candlelight vigils for victims of one side or the other, but “time waits for no one“, to paraphrase Mick Jagger, an Englishman who once fell in love with a Nicaraguan beauty,and the memories of battle recede further and further into the past.  Several taxi drivers I rode with had no recollection of the fighting at all, having been born in the early 80’s. Mostly we talked beisbol and cervesa, and laughed. A lot. It might be a poor country,  but it is rich in humanity. People I spoke with seemed very wise to all of the socialistic propaganda, and billboards extolling Ortega’s accomplishments. They seemed to be aware that the government is trying to shove a lot of this rhetoric down their throats. Many believe it for sure, no question Ortega can fill a plaza and give a rousing speech, but he’s also viewed as a dinosaur, a relic of another era that has passed. But he’s not going away and he still has about three years left in this term. One paper always refers to him as the “unconstitutional President”, since he had his Supreme Court buddies tear up the Constitution and allow him to serve more than once. From my chats with a young university student, majoring in archaeological architecture, to a middle aged woman in a wooden stall along a dirt road far removed from the capital Managua, to just sitting beside a group of young guys on a ferry laughing their heads off as we crossed Lake Nicaragua, I enjoyed the atmosphere of a country that is still inherently strong and ready to meet any challenge, whether man-made or act of God.


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