If you are a history person, or are interested in a brief history of Nicaragua, Dina Rubey, a wonderful friend from Bryn Mawr, who is also in Nicaragua for an internship, sited a brief history from the Loney Planet Guidbook. If you care to read it, please do. I have finally found some history that strikes my interest! Please don't be baffled by the long entry if you are not a history person; merely read it if it interests you:
(Paige R. Penland, Gary Chandler, Liza Prado. Nicaragua and El Salvador. Lonely Planet Publications Pty Ltd. 2006. 55-58).
"Nicaragua won independence from Spain in 1821, and the resulting power vacuum led to a civil war. In 1852 the conservatives took power for 30 years of peace, if not prosperity. For the next two decades the USA dominated politics in Nicaragua. In 1914 the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty was signed, granting the USA exclusive rights to a canal it had no intention of building, just to shut out the competition. The occupations casual brutality- torture, political killings, dragging the bodies of dead rebels through the city streets- inspired one teenage boy, Augusto C. Sandino.
The liberals mounted a noble, if ineffective, resistance to the US occupation, which wilted completely in the 1920’s. But Sandino- by now a commander of his own personal army- continued fighting. The US trained the Nicaraguan National Guard under the command of loyal bureaucrat Anastasio Somoza Garcia.
In 1934, Sandino was murdered. Somoza overthrew the President in 1937 and took power in a US-backed dictatorship. The US allowed Somoza to amass landholdings equal to all of El Salvador. After his 1956 assasination, Somoza was succeeded by his oldest son, Luis Somoza Debayle. The US Kennedy administration was graciously granted full use of Puerto Cabezas for launching its disastrous 1961 invasion of Cuba. Luis Somoza called for elections shortly afterwards, lost handily to Liberal Renee Schick, then quietly retired.
His younger brother, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, was not as eager to give up his birthright.
Luis died in 1967 and Anastasio assumed the presidency. The West Point graduate used the National Guard ruthlessly, stifling a growing call for democracy. An increasingly militant group of university students calling themselves the Sandinistas tried to counter him.
A 6.3 earthquake in the early morning of December 23, 1972 killed 6,000 people and reduced 15 sq. kilometers of Managua to rubble. The world, moved by the holiday devastation, donated aid on an unprecedented scale; Somoza diverted almost everything to family and friends. The Sandinistas were, with this one powerful betrayal, legitimized. Nicaraguans from every walk of life threw in their support, and over the next five years the nation became ungovernable. The Narional Guard destroyed entire cities and assassinated journalists.
Almost every country in the Americas and Europe cut ties with the Somoa regime… except the U.S.
The revolution marched to victory on July 19, 1979, and Somoza fled the country. He was assassinated shortly afterwards in Paraguay.
The Sandinistas inherited a country in shambles. Poverty, homelessness, illiteracy, and staggeringly inadequate health care were just a few of the widespread problems. Some 50,000 people have been killed in the revolutionary struggle and 50,000 were made refugees.
The FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front) took power, and the National Guard was replaced but he Sandinista Peoples Army.
In 1981, just days after taking office, US President Ronald Reagan canceled Nicaragua’s aid package and publicly committed his administration to helpoing the National Guard regroup and re-arm as the Contras, whose mission to overthrow the Sandinista-led Nicaraguan government would last a decade. Reagan constructed bases for Contras in Honduras and Costa Rica offering millions in training and material aid. The civil war between the Contras and democratic Sandinista government force intensified after Daniel Ortega (current Nicaraguan President) won apparently free and fair elections in 1984.
In 1985, the US implemented a full economic blockade, including food and medicine. 50,000 civilians died.
Ortega lifted press censorship, enforced a ceasefire and called for geenral elections to be held in 1990. Violete Barrios de Chamorro became the first female head of state in Central America in 1990. The transition to power was relatively peaceful. The USA finally called off the embargo, but the country was in ruins.
Chamorro decentralized the government brought the police and military under civilian control, and cut the military’s numbers from almost 95,000 at th war’s peak to less than 20,000. She constructed a stable foundation on which the nation could rebuild.
Chamorro’s replacement, who handily beat Ortega, was a blast from the dictatorial past: corpulent Liberal Arnoldo Aleman, voted one of the world’s 10 most corrupt politicians by the UN Human Rights Subcommission. Aleman siphoned off some US $100 million from government coffers, which may be chump change where you’re from, but not in Nicaragua. Even after Hurricane Mitch savaged the country in 1998 - killing 4,000 people are destroying a surreal 70% of the infrastructure - he stayed on the take.
Enrique Bolanos, also of the Liberal Party, took office in 2001, he promised to put Aleman in jail. To everyone’s surprise, Bolanos actually did it. But it was too late, in a way.
Five years later, in 2006, Daniel Ortega of the FSLN, was democratically elected yet again."