Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
- Margaret Mead
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
- Margaret Mead
Let the little children come to me,
and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
May God bless you with a restless discomfort
about easy answers, half – truths, and superficial relationships,
so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.
May God bless you with holy anger
at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace
among all people.
May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer
From pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish,
So that you may reach out your hand
to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.
May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe
That you really can make a difference in this world,
So that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.
And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator,
Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word Who is our Brother and Savior,
And the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide, be with you
And remain with you, this day and forevermore.
The world can no longer be left to mere
diplomats, politicians and business leaders.
They have done the best they could, no doubt.
But this is an age for spiritual heroes – a time for men and women
to be heroic in their faith and in spiritual character and power.
The greatest danger to the Christian church today
is that of pitching its message too low.
- Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines
Our friend Frank Rivas had wanted to take us to a special beach. He said it was amazing! We believed him, but it was a few hours away from Chinandega, and just felt complicated at the time. To figure out transportation as well as to spend money on more accomodations. Our condo in Chinandega was the most expensive rent we had paid, so we really didn’t have funds to spare at the time.
A month later however when our plans changed at the last minute, we weren’t committed to renting, we had a few days of limbo, and Frank asked us again, it seemed to make perfect sense. Why not give Redwood Beach a shot?
We loved our very short weekend at Redwood Beach. We played hard, relaxed plenty, ate gourmet meals, explored, encountered, enjoyed, envisioned…
We can’t wait for an opportunity to return! Thank You Mike & Stacy for your incredible hospitality!
Our day started really early – we were traveling on the cheap, and wanted to catch an early chicken bus from Jinotega to Matagalpa so that we could have better options for transport from Matagalpa to Leon. We were hoping to avoid going through Managua for both the distance (extra time of travel) & expense, but the options are fewer going this route.
We made it! In actual record time I would say. Chicken Bus from Jinotega to Matagalpa and then an expresso van from Matagalpa to Leon. We made it by lunch!
From the bus terminal we took 2 taxi’s to a hotel that had been recomended to us by our friend Mike back in San Juan del Sur. We had know idea it was the fanciest place in all of Leon! When we learned the price we knew we’d have to go elsewhere. When we asked the man at the desk where he would recomend to us, he looked at us weary travelers with all of our stuff and offered us a cheaper price – that included breakfast! It was still a stretch, but we siad YES! And we were so glad that we did! La Perla was an amzing hotel with so many comforts. Owned by a man originally from Vail, CO Mike was excited to get to meet him just by chance down in the lobby. With only 24 hours to do Leon well – La Perla gave us a great home-base. We were able to have two rooms for about $120.00 US.
For more information on La Perla in English:
Miranda took over as our photographer for the rest of our time in Leon!
The famous Leon Museum of Legends and Traditions! What a blast this place is. If in Leon, this is a must go to! http://vianica.com/attraction/58/museum-of-legends-and-traditions
León is a city rich in history. The area is known for its many legends, which were – and still are – passed from generation to generation. The museum of legends and traditions has an interesting collection of objects related to about 14 myths and legends. Most of them are from León, and every single one has a different story behind it.
The museum offers a great place to learn more about the golden crocodile, the beheaded priest, or the Spanish colonel. The guides can tell you everything about the history behind the legends, as well as about another interesting parts of the museum: the history of the building itself.
The museum is located inside a building that served as a prison during the regime of the Somoza family. This prison was constructed in 1921, and therefore called ‘Cárcel la XXI’, or ‘Prison 21’. You can see some of the prison cells, as well as the protection wall that surrounds the building.
After our visit to this museum, we wandered our way back towards the cathedral. We had met a woman collecting donations for deaf children earlier, and she invited us to come back to the cathedral for a tour including a chance to go on the roof. We weren’t sure if it was legit, or if we wanted to go on the roof, but we headed back that way none the less. Along the way, we came upon the Revolution Museum. Another great stop on our journey. Our tour guide had fought in the revolution and had many stories to share.
During the 1979 revolution, the Sandinistas took over León in violent street by street fighting. Somoza then had the city bombed, an unforgivable move considering he was bombing his own people. The National Guard took León back over, again in street by street fighting, but this time less intense since the Sandinistas melted away. Finally, the Sandinistas took León back over and held it until the Somoza government fell. You can still see bullet marks on some buildings. Also, there is a shell of a church on the road out of town that was destroyed during the bombing.
We had a full day of exploring and adventure and ended to day with a cheap pizza dinner back at the hotel.
We all slept well and then enjoyed the hotel breakfast before catching our next chicken Bus – this one back to Chinandega.
The Rutledges are missionary family we had met through our friend Jane Mirandette. We had visited them in May and they were so impressed with our handy work, they invited us back with more projects in mind! They also had 3 children still at home who loved a chance to hang out and play with ours! We spent a few days with them in their home in Jinotega and then went to their mission house in Matagalpa for about a week. While there, we were able to paint 3 more bedrooms and finish up the library we had gotten a great start on during our first visit. Mike did many other projects and it was a great place for those of us who had been sick to rest up and begin to recover.
In all of Nicaragua, for some reason, Matagalpa was the most inexpensive restraunts. Cooking at the Matagalpa house had some chalenges, and so we found ourselves usually eating out once a day. We found some places we loved, and some we didn’t. I don’t have any pictures, but our favorite really was right next door. No surprise, it was an organic farm to table restraunt that had daily lunch specials. Always a fun surprise to see what they would serve – as they only had one option – unless by chance there were left overs from the day before. It was a popular choice amongst many in our neighborhood, and so the opportunities to strike a fun conversation were exciting too!
One rainy day (it’s the rainy season – they are all rainy!) we happened upon a super fun bead shop while out on one of our many family walks. There were so many fun things to look at, but when we saw “our tree” we knew they were perfect and at less than 20 cents each, buying 7 was affordable! We like trees, a tree ended up on our blog, and we’d talked often about the many significances of trees – you really can go so many different places….
Back in Matagalpa, we found ourselves in the heart of where the revoltion began 34 years ago – just in time for lots of celebrating! Stores were closed and everyone was out in the streets. Farely randomly, we found ourselves on a sidewalk in a perfect spot to watch the parade go by!
A little more on the Sandinista Revolution from Vianica.com:
Before entering into this topic, we should state that this article is merely historical, without any relation with the Nicaraguan political world.
Every year on July 19, hundreds of people from all over the country gather at Plaza La Fe (also known as Plaza de la Revolución) in Managua to commemorate a historical and inspiring event: the fall of the militarized Somaza family dictatorship. This family ruled the country in a harsh and unscrupulous way for more than four decades. The dynasty was overthrown after the National Sandinista Revolution, which took place when people from all sectors – workers, businessmen, peasants, students, and guerrillas – joined forces and finally defeated the Somoza dynasty and the National Guard on July 19, 1979.
Unfortunately, nowadays this celebration and the whole heritage of the Revolution is monopolized with proselytizing ends by a political party. Consequently, thousands of Nicaraguans do not anymore identify themselves with this important moment of national history that had the friendliness and solidarity of the entire world. Others do not anymore attend the gathering at the plaza; instead, they celebrate in their own neighborhoods or houses.
The symbol and direct precedent of the revolution is the struggle of General Augusto C. Sandino (1895-1934), a national hero who fought with bravery, supported by an army formed by farmers and workers. He fought against the armed intervention of the United State in Nicaragua, done under the pretext of ensuring peace and democracy in the country.
Sandino and his “small and crazy army”, as the Chilean writer Gabriela Mistral called it, fought US marines in the mountains of the Segovias, the northern part of the country. His tactics where so effective that even though they were outnumbered and even though the Marines were technologically superior, Sandinos army was never eliminated by foreign soldiers. The Marines finally left the country, leaving behind a Nicaraguan army that was then known as the National Guard (“Guardia Nacional”), led by a national military man trained in the United States: Anastacio Somoza García, known as “Tacho”.
After the marines retreated, Sandino wanted to negotiate peace and let the life of his soldiers turn back to normal. He was called by the president José María Moncada and by Somoza to negotiate. Sadly, Sandino was betrayed, captured and executed. Even nowadays, the place where the body of this hero is buried remains unknown.
With time and political astuteness Somoza García took power in 1937. His unconditional alliance with the United States (with whom he negotiated at the country’s expense) and his complete control of the National Guard guaranteed him his totalitarian “throne”, where contrarian politicians were controlled using terror methods and sometimes by massive executions. Nevertheless, in September 1956 Rigoberto López Pérez, a young poet from León, scarified his life when he shot the dictator during a social celebration that took place in the city of León. Rigoberto was killed at the same place. Somoza survived the bullets, but died later in a Panamanian hospital where he was transferred to.
Somoza García’s oldest son Luís Somoza then took over the presidency, while the National Guard was led by the youngest son, Anastacio Somoza Debayle, also known as “Tachito” (trained in the United States just like his father), who started a repression movement in León after his father’s death, against those who he considered political enemies.
In 1967 Luis Somoza Debayle was still occupying the presidency (although he did not govern for 11 years, he alternated power with another politician of that time), but suddenly died. After the government of a marionette president, “Tachito “, his younger brother won the national elections and restored the dictatorial repressive and devouring regime.
Even though his father had acquired various real estate properties, businesses and industries that then became his and his family’s patrimony, Somoza Debayle continued to indiscriminately collect more and more wealth. At the end of 1972, when a devastated earthquake hit Managua, a big part of foreign aid brought to Nicaragua was deviated to the dictator’s warehouse. This aid was commercialized and auctions put in place for the reconstruction of the city (paid by public money and international aid) were won by Somoza’s businesses and their allies.
The social distress was increasing, but the National Guard could strongly submit any public declaration by torturing and executing political opponents and people from the general population.
The strong subjection of Nicaragua and its population to the wishes of Somoza and his private army resulted in the creation of a military movement in 1962 that intended to defeat the dictatorship. The movement was named after Sandino and this is how the “Sandinista National Liberation Front” (Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional –FSLN) was born, founded by a group of intellectuals and volunteers led by the young Carlos Fonseca.
The beginning of this organization was tough, due to the inequality in combat. Its first military action ended in a massacre because the group was surrounded by the National Guard and the Honduran army at the national border in the department of Jinotega, a place that used to be the setting of numerous battles directed by Sandino against North American marines.
In spite of the initial defeat, the FSLN did not succumb. Some peasants, students and even big landowners joined in an active form or as accomplices. As time went by, the “anti-somocista” ideology began to embrace revolutionary views while increasing military power and propaganda efforts to build a sense of consciousness in the working sectors, universities and schools. Even though the guerilla was pushed back to the mountains due to the National Guard’s force, the mere existence of this opposition army made the gradual involvement of more and more people possible.
Somoza still was completely in control. The guerrilla actions in urban and rural zones were repelled and in 1967 a second organized move was knocked down after several combats in the northern region of the country. The remnant Sandinistas were forced to disperse in much more remote areas.
Nevertheless, the movement did not die. In 1969, a small group of battlers hidden in a house in Managua was discovered by the National Guard, and a battle took place almost as if it was a movie scene. Three hundred soldiers, tanks and planes were sent to destroy the hidden guerrillas. The battle lasted several hours until there was no more answer to the attack. When soldiers entered the house seeking for bodies they realized that the entire combat was fought by a single young man, Julio Buitrago, who stayed inside the house so that his partners could escape.
Somoza showed the battle on TV to demonstrate the FSLN’s destruction, but the heroic action of a single man turned the entire situation around and the population was moved by the event and identified themselves even more with the revolutionary movement. Other unequal battles took place in several cities.
Continuous and diversified actions of the guerrillas at several points of the country provoked a strong repression by the National Guard. Through threats, tortures and spying the National Guard achieved the apprehension or annihilation of collaborators, clandestine groups and guerrilla leaders who were dispersed in mountains and cities. Then, in 1970, the FSLN started with a so-called period of “accumulation of forces in silence”, during which they reduced their attacks to a minimum and focused their concentration at strengthening the organization, its incidence in the different sectors, the military preparation of its members and the compilation of war resources and those of other nature.
Four years later, the movement initiated public combat. They organized attacks all over the country. Furthermore, an urban action with high political value took place in the house of an aristocrat, Jose María Castillo, Somoza’s friend, who organized an elite party. Here, the guerillas entered the house and kidnapped several diplomats and government officials. The National Guard could not attack, so they decided to accept demands, including the publication of a manifesto, the liberty of political prisoners and a monetary reward. Battlers also negotiated their flight out of the country.
Somoza declared a state of siege and started an indiscriminate repression against collaborators or against any suspect. The following years were of strong combats in cities and rural areas; more and more people were getting involved with the guerilla.
In 1976 the highest leader of the FSLN, Carlos Fonseca, was unexpectedly killed. Another leader, Eduardo Contreras (who directed the assault against Castillo’s house), was also murdered. After these killings, the FSLN was divided in three tendencies that continued their fight independently: FSLN Proletario (Proletarian FSLN), FSLN Guerra Popular Prolongada (Prolonged Popular War FSLN), and FSLN Insurreccional (Insurrectionist FSLN).
At the end of the following year one of the tendencies – the FSLN Insurrectionist – organized a strong urban offense with direct attacks to all National Guard barracks in various cities. At the beginning, the majority of the actions were successful but Somoza’s army superiority moved the balance around. Nevertheless, that same year a public manifesto of “Grupo de los Doce” (Group of The Twelve) encouraged the support of the battle against the dictatorship. This group was formed by twelve civil personages who were exiled by Somoza.
The following year, in 1978, Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, director of the national newspaper La Prensa (directly opposing Anastasio Somoza Debayle), was murdered. This action was attributed to the dictator and the capital city’s population protested. Moreover, this caused a more expressive hate of the national business class.
This same year, a month later, an insurrection started at the local indigenous neighborhood Monimbó in Masaya. At this time, the world had more interest in the Nicaraguan conflict. Interest was intensified when in August a guerilla commando of the FSLN Insurrectionist took over the National Palace in Managua (where the Congress gathered), kidnapping congressmen and senators. Again, the dictatorship had no other choice than to accept demands: liberate prisoners, publish a revolutionary note and allow the departure of the commando.
A year later, in 1979, several battle settings were organized all over the country. The Somoza dictatorship made their attacks against the guerrilla stronger, affecting the entire population. Bomb attacks were undiscriminating; bombs were thrown over houses in cities where the National Guard was being attacked.
In March, the three tendencies concluded a unification agreement creating, in this way, a single FSLN, motivating the entire population to start an attack at the end of June. In fact, it was in June when the guerrilla moved all its combatants in order to gather in Managua. Moreover, a general strike was organized with the participation of workers and even businessmen, an indicator of hate of the dictatorship.
Again, there was an insurrection in several departments and cities. Somoza organized a powerful attack against those cities, killing many civilians. Nevertheless, the FSLN, supported by the entire population, could not be stopped. One by one, each city was liberated from Somoza’s control.
Somoza’s previous ally, the United States, started to see him with bad eyes, just as the general international opinion. The US opinion deteriorated when a North American journalist was murdered. Even though the dictator tried to accuse the guerillas, another reporter had recorded the event. The government of the United States asked Somoza to step down from power before a public downfall, in order to avoid a new revolutionary government.
However, Somoza tried to defeat the national rebellion. It was impossible. On July 17, Somoza, his collaborators, and leaders of the National Guard left the country, taking a huge fortune with them. A Somoza supporter, Francisco Urcuyo, headed the presidency and asked the Sandinistas to stop attacks. His government lasted only 24 hours, after which he abandoned the country. The National Guard finally surrendered.
On July 19, 1979, thousands of guerillas and civilians entered the Plaza de la Republica, in the old center of Managua, where the whole population celebrated the definite fall of the Somoza dynasty. It was a national celebration and the opportunity to create a new Nicaragua.
A Government Assembly for the National Reconstruction was organized, formed by five members – nobles and Sandinistas leaders among them. Reforms started to be held in order to take the country out of the post war disaster and to promote social justice at all levels. Banks were nationalized and properties were expropriated from the Somoza family and their allies. Furthermore, as a sign of total victory a National Crusade of Alphabetization (an illiteracy campaign) was organized, reducing the illiteracy rate from 53% to 12%. This program was admired worldwide.
Somoza, who first left to the United States and then settled in Paraguay, was murdered in 1980 by an Argentinean guerrilla commando called “Montoneros”. His collaborators settled in Miami, Florida (United States) where they became a powerful local political group.
The leftist characteristics of the new Nicaraguan government were not accepted by the United States, due to its affinities with the Cuban communist leader Fidel Castro. Consequently, an economic blockade started in 1981. This further united Nicaragua and the socialist block of the Soviet Union, creating a harsh attitude of their powerful northern neighbor.
Despite this situation, Nicaragua had won huge international sympathy and several countries (also from Europe) started to collaborate with the reconstruction of Nicaragua. Organizations and private individuals also helped, which made the existence of various nationalities in the country commonplace.
The remnants of the National Guard, who settled in Honduras, Costa Rica, and Miami, soon received enormous financial clandestine support from the government of the United States and organized the so called “Contrarrevolución Nacional” (the National Counterrevolution). Their army was known as “La Contra” and war started once again, hurting the fragile Nicaraguan economy as a result of war expenses.
The FSLN called for national elections and their leaders formed a leftist political party, that later, in 1984, won the election by a comfortable gap. However, the war incremented the public distress and errors committed by the Sandinista government caused the enrollment of many ‘campesinos’ (peasants) to the Contra (mainly in the Caribbean coast).
In 1985, the government of the United States dictated a commercial embargo to Nicaragua, supported by the fact that Nicaragua adopted a pro-communist attitude. The US threatened the Nicaraguan government several times with military intervention. Nevertheless, the international opinion discreetly supported the revolutionary government when the secret Contra funding by the US government was discovered (Iran-Contra affair). Moreover, the International Court in The Hague ruled that the United States had to stop any indirect hostility and it had to pay a multi-million indemnification to the very impoverished Nicaragua. However, this turned out to be a merely symbolic victory.
Nicaragua was gradually being destructed and consumed by war; the victims were numerous. In 1988, after a strong attack of the national government agains the Contras, peace negotiations started to take place. In 1989, the Sandinista government signed an agreement that stated that elections where going to be held the following year. In those elections, the Sandinistas were overpowered against all expectations.
This, for many, was the end of the revolution. A major part of the Nicaraguan population started to reject the Sandinista movement due to many mistakes made by its leaders. However, the FSLN continued to be one of the strongest Nicaraguan political parties, even though many of its historical leaders have left the party as a result of political differences.