Volume > Issue > Impressions of Nicaragua — Part I

Impressions of Nicaragua — Part I


By Robert Coles | April 1984

Recently I went with two of my sons to Nica­ragua, where we spent time visiting schools (then in session), hospitals, clinics, a number of Managua’s barrio homes, and those of other cities, such as Masaya and León. We visited relatively isolated campesino communities, talked with many boys and girls whose parents work long hours on the land. We also talked with nuns and priests, some of them Americans working gladly, enthusiastically in the country, others of Nicaraguan ancestry, and very much torn by conflicting loyalties, sentiments, as­pirations. We came back to this country, I fear, as worried and confused as some of our Nicaraguan clergy friends quite obviously were.

Even some strong critics of the Sandinista government acknowledge its valuable educational and medical achievements. In the journal Foreign Affairs (Summer 1983), Arturo Cruz, who resigned his position as Nicaragua’s Ambassador to the Unit­ed States in protest against the increasingly totali­tarian nature of his government, describes the San­dinistas as showing a “real concern for the desti­tute” (who, one has to add, make up the over­whelming majority of the nation’s people). At an­other point Cruz refers to “programs worthy of praise,” and characterizes them as “targeted at im­proving the living conditions of the Nicaraguan people.” He mentions “a literacy campaign and a public health service reform designed to benefit the entire country.” Toward the end of his essay he re­fers to the “idealistic boys and girls” who make up, by his estimate, “the Revolution’s rank and file.”

Such idealism seemed very much in evidence to us as we traveled through Nicaragua. The litera­cy program has been dramatically effective. Among those who helped in that effort were youths of the upper and middle classes in Managua who attended a Catholic school, Instituto Pedagogico — La Salle. The principal of that school, Edwin Maradiaga, a native-born priest, was eloquent in his description of what took place in recent years:

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