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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Laguna de Apoyo Reading List II

Nicaragua is at the same time, a small, impoverished piece of the Latin American reality, and an historical and literary force unto itself. To understand Nicaragua as an outsider compells a great deal of reading. Here, we present yet another set of readings for the thoughtful Nicaragua lover. Plenty of great literature is about and by Nicaraguans, and we recommend reading it all.

Life as a Anglo child among the Caribbean people of Nicaragua brought this author a universe of novel experiences which he retells with grace and sensitiviy toward the subject. The Creoles and the Miskito people, little understood or accepted on the Pacific side of Nicaragua, are revealed among his anecdotes written a century ago.

Life in state and class oppression and struggle to achieve liberation united with Christian religious principles among the common people of Nicaragua. The result was explosive. The will of many men and women solidify against the dictatorship, and a call to faith was made and heard among many, breathing life in praxis to the concepts of liberation theology. A prime document in the history of Nicaragua, The Gospel in Solentiname is also a call to arms to people of faith, through the exegetic words of poor, rural people seeing Jesus of the Gospels in their midst, sharing their lives and their injustices. Ernesto Cardenal is a Trappist monk, studied under Thomas Merton in Gethsemane, Kentucky, and he participated in the founding of an intentional community in the Solentiname islands in southern Lake Nicaragua.

The Country Under My Skin is the autobiography of Gioconda Belli, the story of a young woman poet from a well-to-do family who chooses to join the reviled Sandinista rebels. Her first-hand accounts serve as valid historical accounts as well as moving personal reflections and worthy prose. Belli participated actively in the rebellion against the Somoza dictatorship, and later in the Sandinista society and government.

Among the most prominent writers in the Spanish language, Ruben Dario was a master of poetry and prose, and a modernist for all times. His writing often transcended Nicaragua and his readers are found throughout the Spanish-speaking world, for his precise and universal use of language and cadence. Azul, a collection of poems and prose, was written when he was only twenty-one years old, and today excerpts from it are pillars of the Spanish language. All Nicaraguans can quote passages from his work. To know Nicaragua is to know Dario, and vice versa.

Ben Linder's death and life are remarkable even today, in part because of his novel choice in life: to work for no income as a volunteer in revolutionary Nicaragua. He was killed in a military operation by contra rebels, just like thousands of other young men and women. Unlike most of the others, however, Ben Linder was a US citizen working as a civilian in Nicaragua. Ben was targetted for assassination because he was making lives better for poor Nicaraguans in the remote countryside. Denial, resistance, and later, outright hostility toward Ben's family and others who demanded to know the details of US involvement in his death illuminated a sad reality: The US government of Nicaragua sponsored terrorism in Nicaragua. This would be a thrilling story, if it were not true. Instead, it is a chronicle of a country caught in a cold-war crossfire, in the microcosm of one martyred American young man and his coworkers. This biography, written by Joan Kruckewitt, is a worthwhile read.

The most cogent intellectual critic of US intervention in Nicaragua during the 1980's was Noam Chomsky, who re-interpreted the Reagan administration's zeal to undermine the Sandinista administration, using his skills in communication. "One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist" and similar concepts were embodied in the contra war and revealed by Chomsky's brilliant analysis. Nicaragua was a prized piece on a chessboard for the US government, and Chomsky provides key features in the dissection of use of language in the war of words.

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