The Fall and Rise of the Market in Sandinista Nicaragua

The Fall and Rise of the Market in Sandinista Nicaragua

The Fall and Rise of the Market in Sandinista Nicaragua

The Fall and Rise of the Market in Sandinista Nicaragua


"Ryan has produced an outstanding contribution to the study of Sandinista Nicaragua and to a more general understanding of the problems of socialist construction throughout the Third World" F.S. Weaver, Choice


A warm Sunday afternoon, January 1987. I am doing guard duty with Don Andrés, on a hill overlooking La Sorpresa, a state farm with some 140 hectares of good coffee land, about 60 kilometres north-east from the departmental capital of Jinotega. Perhaps to avenge its former owner, an officer of Somoza's National Guard, the farm has been destroyed twice by the contras, in 1983 and 1985. Outside the door of the hut in which we sleep there is a simple wooden cross, in memory of sixteen coffee pickers murdered during the 1985 attack.

Today, though, the farm is quiet below us: people are reading, chatting, or cleaning their rifles. Everyone enjoys the week's one half-day of rest, renewing their energies for the next set of twelve-hour days of coffee picking. in the distance the sun reflects off the sheer white rocks of Peñas Blancas, an area that in previous years was the scene of constant fighting.

Don Andrés elbows me: "There are people climbing that hill over there." I strain my eyes at the hill, about a kilometre away, but see nothing. "Don't you see, that fellow in the white shirt just there." Eventually I make out a white speck moving up the hill.

Don Andrés is from this area, and has lived most of his life here. He now works as a gardener in Managua, but promises to return to the mountains as soon as the war is over. "Life can be beautiful here, when you don't have to carry a rifle around everywhere, carry all these bullets, watch every step for mines." and he knows these mountains: whenever our squad has to come down a mountain at 4.00 A.M. after a night of guard duty, I place myself right behind him and keep my eyes . . .

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