A Moral History
338 pages, 6.00 x 9.00
Hardcover | 9780268106898 | December 2019
eBook (Web PDF) | 9780268106928 | December 2019
eBook (EPUB) | 9780268106911 | December 2019
Robert J. Sierakowski's Sandinistas: A Moral History offers a bold new perspective on the liberation movement that brought the Sandinista National Liberation Front to power in Nicaragua in 1979, overthrowing the longest-running dictatorship in Latin America. Unique sources, from trial transcripts to archival collections and oral histories, offer a new vantage point beyond geopolitics and ideologies to understand the central role that was played by everyday Nicaraguans. Focusing on the country’s rural north, Sierakowski explores how a diverse coalition of labor unionists, student activists, housewives, and peasants inspired by Catholic liberation theology came to successfully challenge the legitimacy of the Somoza dictatorship and its entrenched networks of power. Mobilizing communities against the ubiquitous cantinas, gambling halls, and brothels, grassroots organizers exposed the regime’s complicity in promoting social ills, disorder, and quotidian violence while helping to construct radical new visions of moral uplift and social renewal.
Sierakowski similarly recasts our understanding of the Nicaraguan National Guard, grounding his study of the Somozas’ army in the social and cultural world of the ordinary soldiers who enlisted and fought in defense of the dictatorship. As the military responded to growing opposition with heightened state terror and human rights violations, repression culminated in widespread civilian massacres, stories that are unearthed for the first time in this work. These atrocities further exposed the regime’s moral breakdown in the eyes of the public, pushing thousands of previously unaligned Nicaraguans into the ranks of the guerrilla insurgency by the late 1970s. Sierakowski’s innovative reinterpretation of the Sandinista Revolution will be of interest to students, scholars, and activists concerned with Latin American social movements, the Cold War, and human rights.
Robert J. Sierakowski is a history teacher and advisor in the Department of History, Trevor Day School. He is a former lecturer in the Department of History and Archaeology at the University of the West Indies.
"Robert J. Sierakowski argues that the promise of moral regeneration and the imposition of 'law and order' became the key factor that drew the population of the rural north to the Sandinista vision of revolution. This argument about the distinctive radical nature of the Sandinistas is intriguing and makes an important contribution to the field." —Lindsey Churchill, author of Becoming the Tupamaros
"In Sandinistas: A Moral History, Robert J. Sierakowski brilliantly moves away from the Cold War matrix to examine the rise and fall of the Sandinista movement of the 1970s and 1980s. This is essential reading for anyone interested not only in the Sandinistas of the 1980s, but also for those seeking to understand the complicated moral landscape in Nicaragua today." —Virginia Garrard, author of Terror in the Land of the Holy Spirit
"An absolutely essential contribution to understanding Nicaraguan society and the Nicaraguan revolution from the bottom up. With deep sympathy for the poor Nicaraguans who were drawn into the brutality of the National Guard and the Contras, as well as those who threw their lives into building a revolutionary society, this book offers a completely new gendered interpretation of the 1979 revolution and of Nicaraguan culture and society." —Aviva Chomsky, author of A History of the Cuban Revolution
"Sierakowski reveals a compelling paradox at the center of the Sandinista insurgency, namely, that a radical social movement can respond to the masses’ 'conservative' demands—moral regeneration, family harmony, and the preservation of tradition—which the Somoza regime abandoned. Historiographically aware, deeply rooted in original evidence and lucidly written, this is an excellent study that will make a lasting mark." —Erik Ching, author of Stories of Civil War in El Salvador
“Sierakowski does not so much overturn received wisdom about the Sandinista Revolution as retell it through a new lens of moral regeneration. He reveals a paradox at the center of the Sandinistas that has not received sufficient scholarly attention to date, namely that a core aspect of the Sandinistas’ popular support was their appeal to ‘conservative’ values, which the Somoza dictatorship had trampled.” —Choice