The three decades that passed between 1970 and the new millennium represented a period of significant change in Nicaragua. At the center of this transformation lay the government and its constant turnovers in leadership. As a result of these vicissitudes, a considerable modification in general attitude is seen as well. Gioconda Belli’s life has been nothing short of a whirlwind, but appropriately, the country to which she has dedicated all of her efforts has also demonstrated a tumultuous history in the past century. Through the accounts of this period in Belli’s memoirs, The Country Under my Skin, the details of these decades, the transformation of the government, and subsequently the military of Nicaragua are described parallels to her life.
Nicaragua went through three distinct stages during this time period. The first stage was a severe sense of uncertainty resulting from the massacre that occurred upon the Conservative Party’s efforts to overthrow the Somoza dynasty. This stage also encompassed feelings of desperation, as the general public felt that the Sandinistas were the ‘only chance for Nicaragua’ (Belli, 23) and the Sandinistas followed their leaders blindly in order to achieve what they believed could rescue their country from Somoza’s chokehold. The subsequent stage was activity. Nicaraguans, mainly the Sandinistas as they are the central group represented in Belli’s memoir, engaged in fervent activities to assist and help to change the government to one which they accepted. The final, and most recent stage, was disappointment, that was succeeded by appeasement and acceptance for the new government after the fall of the Sandinistas. Through each of these stages, a firsthand account is presented in Belli’s memoir, and her boredom, fear, excitement, passion, hatred, and love are all somehow fueled or quelled by these phases of leadership.
For almost a century, the government of Nicaragua has been an unstable one. Conflicting groups within the country have fought each other for years to gain power, and these altercations have often ended in bloodshed, or even death. The government of Nicaragua has flip flopped between socialism and dictatorships, and the government, until the 1990s, was ruled by one of two groups: the Somoza dynasty, or the Sandinistas. Even prior to Belli’s lifetime, Augusto César Sandino, the basis of the Sandinista movement, was assassinated by Anastasio Somoza García, and at this point, we realize the constant and ongoing rift between these two groups. In 1967, Nicaragua held an election, which was rigged, leaving Anastasio Somoza Debayle, son of García, the new president. His brother, Luis, was in charge of the National Guard, but he died shortly after Anastasio was elected. Anastasio was now President of Nicaragua, but also the leader of the National Guard, giving him absolute political and military control of the country. The public was disappointed and disapproving of Anastasio’s administration. Social conditions deteriorated significantly, as the illiteracy and poverty rates in the country increased as a sickening rate. It was at this point that stage one came into effect. Nicaraguans, most specifically the young adults around Belli’s age, began to feel “trapped in a kind of uneasy resignation.” (Belli, 24) since they so clearly disagreed with Somoza Debayle’s actions, yet they also did not agree with the Conservative Party’s pact with Somoza, there only alternative lay in the Sandinistas. The Sandinistas were hardly an alternative, as they were by no means a type of government. They were guerillas who defied the government, rather than create it. Yet they were socialists, they were people for the people, and they were successors of Sandino’s legacy, one that rivaled Somoza. As the Arab proverb says, ‘an enemy of my enemy is my friend’, and therefore the people began to see the Sandinistas as a substitute, however hesitantly.
Belli describes herself as one of...
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