The Nicaraguan Revolution and Its Antecedents
The Nicaraguan Revolution was the first popular political rebellion in modern Latin America to be carried out with the active participation and support of the Christian churches. From the late 1960s onward a vital nucleus of Catholics and Protestants found that their religious faith offered strong motives to join the cause of popular insurrection. These religiously motivated participants in the struggle against the Somoza dictatorship came from all walks of life and all sectors of society, and during a crucial period of Nicaraguan history their aspirations coincided with the goals of more secular actors in Nicaragua's political drama. The result was an unprecedented fusion of the religious and the profane in the making of a Latin American revolution.
In this respect the Nicaraguan Revolution stands apart from the other two major Latin American revolutions, those of Mexico and Cuba. The Mexican Revolution was militantly anticlerical because the church was seen by revolutionary groups as one of the most reactionary elements in society. The Catholic church had been closely allied to the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz ( 1877-1910), which fell to the revolutionary movement, and it bitterly resisted the general thrust of the revolution. As a result, the Mexican constitution of 1917 dealt harshly with the church, abolishing its right to own property, reducing its control over education, denying political rights to the clergy, and giving the state legal jurisdiction over the church.
In Cuba the Catholic church played no significant role in the armed struggle that overthrew the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista ( 1934-44, 1952-58), preferring to stand aside from the conflict, while occasionally criticizing both sides. However, when Fidel Castro's 26th of July Movement defeated Batista and set Cuba on the path of Marxist revolution, the church moved quickly, although ineffectively, into militant opposition. Within a few years, and particularly after the Bay of Pigs