La Prensa has a front page story announcing a Grand March of Workers
for Sunday morning at the Plaza Ana Maria. Ive seen posters
in the city advertising the event, and it seems like there may be
a big crowd. But La Prensas story is more than an announcement:
it is an exhortation to attend, something akin to old Bolshevik
posters urging Workers! Soldiers! Peasants! and Students! to Unite
for the Nation! This is supposed to be a newspaper? My crude translations
are enough to tell me that journalism in Nicaragua is played by
a different set of rules.
my way home from the cathedral, I share a taxi with a Rastafarian.
His dreadlocks are awesome. I have no idea how common Rastafarians
are in Managua, but he stands out for me. A gringo and a Rasta tooling
through the streets of the capital: an odd couple indeed. When I
try to make conversation, he asks if Im C.I.A. No,
I answer with a laugh. Hes the first person in Nicaragua to
link me with any unsavory image. In fact, Id prepared myself
to be a target of unending anti-American vitriol. Who else but the
Nicaraguans had more right to hate Americans these days? But no
one has shown me the least bit antipathy, slight or malice. And
its not like theres a lack of anti-Yankee propaganda.
I saw one billboard near the cathedral displaying a machine gunning
soldier and words about Estados Unidos and Invasion.
the other side of the coin, I have only to turn to Donald. During
one of our increasingly high-pitched arguments, he says that people
here are waiting for the invasion. They want the invasion
has come and gone but Reagan has no guts for an invasion here. Not
with U.S. troops. There could be no quick and easy victory. Hell,
they nearly bungled Grenada, the tiny island most people couldnt
find on a map if they tried.
isnt going to be an invasion, Donald. I know that. The American
people wont let it happen. If you want the Sandinistas out,
youll have to do it yourself.
through a shattered mid-town neighborhood on the way to a market,
I see that the business and residential streets here are separated
from the marketgrounds by an open dump. It might have been the earthquake,
now 15 years ago; it might have been the incessant poverty infecting
any urban center. But this place was an open sore that words and
ideologies and guns will never heal. It needs real action. Desperate
action. And heres Donald telling me the people want an invasion.
Yeah, thats just what they need.
big rally is less than a week away. Im not yet sure of the
time, but the date is set for Thursday, November 5, at the Plaza
de la Revolucion. For now, things are moving at the right speed.
no big deal. Spend my time wandering the markets and streets. Meet
my first Nicaraguan Communist at Roberto Huembes Market selling
party flyers that arent very interesting. He tells me in halting
English how the Sandinistas arent Communists at all. The state,
for example, does not own all the factories and the other means
of production. The Sandinistas are, he insists, nothing but capitalists.
streets I walk do nothing to alter my grim view of the city: block
after block of Sandino graffiti and political slogans. And from
what I see, the majority of shops that do have business signs have
some kind of connection to autos, trucks or motor parts. Like a
junkyard strip in a seedy Midwest village or the waterfront in an
oily East Coast hamlet.
the crowded streets and squares armed soldiers are everywhere though
they dont seem to be on active patrol or other official business.
I never see them stop or question anyone. No glaring stares either.
Passersby pay them no attention. Guns in the streets make me uneasy
only in the manner with which they carry their weapons with
a casual flair, rifle barrels pointed waisthigh. I hope to God these
people are well trained.
next morning Im outside the Huembes Market again, at the Plaza
Ana Maria. Looks like a basketball court to me. Organizers are beginning
to set up by 8:30, and I notice a large number of red flags being
unloaded from a van. Workers are handling about a dozen bloodred
flags highlighted with the hammer and sickle. I pull out a few thousand
cordobas and try to buy one, a Nicaraguan Communist Party banner.
But the guy wont bite. Wonder what hed have done for
a $10 bill? Unfortunately my American cash is back at the house.
This brief spectacle only reinforces my notion that we had a poor
idea back in the States about whats happening here. I mean,
the Nicaraguan Communists are ready to march in opposition to the
lot of photographers and notebook-toting reporters are cruising
around. One photographer catches my eye blonde Caucasian
woman in safari shorts. I make it a point to get close.
are you working for?
News & World Report. Ive been shooting in and around Managua
for the past few days. And you?
Came down from Boston about a week ago. My names Larry.
I live in San Francisco, but used to in Boston. Still know some
people there. So youre writing freelance? she asks,
looking at my notebook.
My main interest is the rally on Thursday about the Arias plan.
Should be a big deal. Otherwise Im just trying to find out
what I can.
came all the way from Boston to do a story on a rally? Freelance?
Thats, ah, ambitious.
I mean, its important and Im interested.
the moment Im more interested in Candace. Attractive and my
are you staying? The Intercontinental was full up so I took this
room at a place way on the other side of town. Its not so
hot. Not a restaurant or anything decent around.
ran into this Nicaraguan who knows English, used to live in the
States. He invited me to stay at his home. I got real lucky, I guess.
you had anything to eat?
Not really. But I know theres vendors in the market. Right
over in that building. I point back to the place where Id
dined several times.
But they probably dont have anything vegetarian, do they?
I dont eat meat.
have no idea, and think what a strange, out-of-place notion.
People who cant get enough to eat all over and shes
worried about tofu.
Ill go check it out. Doesnt seem like anythings
gonna happen for a while.
talking to you, Candace. Take it easy.
scenes of the beautiful photographer and the daring journalist spending
passionate evenings in Managua momentarily dance through my head.
people are filing into the plaza. But many in the area have other
things to do than protest. A group larger than those in the main
plaza are queued up about 30 yards off in a bus terminal.
9:00 the attending groups mostly labor unions and opposition
parties begin massing around their banners. Some pose for
photographers. Others try to outshout everyone near them for the
attention of anyone wholl listen. The biggest group wears
pink paper sun visors. Pink. All this chanting and posing goes on
for an hour. One guy gives a speech.
10:00 the entire plaza suddenly takes to the street. We walk out
to a main highway, spread out the width of the road, and march.
The sun is already merciless, but plenty of drink and ice carts
tag along. Those enterprising vendors: doesnt matter whos
doing what. If theres a crowd, sell em something.
the beginning I keep to the sides of the crowd, trying to get a
wide-angle view. Photographers are madly dashing about, trying to
stay in front of and above the crowd. I can occasionally see Candace
out there, ripping off shot after shot. All the while I try to stay
within eyesight of a man in jeans who had been pointed out to me
as a Nicaraguan Communist Party deputy. Back at the plaza, a Brazilian
reporter filled me in on a few things, including a statement that
the local commies are a rightist group. Maybe something got lost
in the translation, but thats what he said. Anyway, the Brazilian
points out this party deputy and I keep him in sight. For what reason,
I cant say.
will say one thing about the Communists. Their red flags hands down
make the most striking visual image in the march. Broad swatches
of crimson red amid the sea of white and muted pastels. The entire
crowd looks to be 2,000 or 3,000 strong.
the road I see one cabbie, on the other roadside, thrust up an arm
in support of the march. A pedestrian does likewise. And I see lots
of handshakes between marchers and onlookers. After a short time
the marchers turn off the wide highway into a narrow residential
street. Many people poke their heads out doorways or stand and look
as the marchers walk by. Some even cheer. But as far as I can see,
there is no sign of wholehearted public support.
hour into the march, Im getting tired of the walk. Thats
all it is, an unending protest march through the streets, except
for a few times when we stop and someone makes a speech. But I figure
theres nothing else going on. And something may happen. Then
I run into a middle-aged white man looking very much out of place.
Turns out hes a reporter for the San Diego Union.
really smart to have worn that hat. I cant believe this sun,
the balding, unprotected reporter says after I introduce myself.
From Comiskey Park to the river landing in St. Louis, to the dirty
streets of Managua, that ChiSox cap has done me good.
I guess so. I cant keep my information a secret and
tell him about the party deputy.
speak Spanish, Larry?
reporter walks up to the guy and talks with him for several blocks.
I feel shortchanged, walking behind this drip whos doing the
interview I should. When he finally drops back a few steps he says
the deputy claims the commies are marching over bread and
hours into the march. Most of the people, unlike me, dont
seem winded. Sandinista police are shadowing our parade but theyre
not out in force. One or two around if you make the effort to look.
Back into the business district, me on
the sidewalk, I see this neatly dressed man bolt from crowd central
with a tape recorder in hand, being chased by two or three others.
Running for all hes worth, the guy darts past me to my left
and down the street. My first reaction is hes stolen the recorder.
But that doesnt jive. Why would a guy dressed like him do
something like that? About 25 yards behind me, the pursuers catch
up and pin the runner against a wall. Then a horde of people, including
photographers, swarm in. Its a melée, and I see the runner
getting punched. Should I go over? Wish I had a camera! But I dont
go. Must be the violence. Its all over in minutes, and I trot
off with the rest.
Monday El Nuevo Diario runs a screaming headline about the attack,
accompanied by three photos. I wasnt in any. Whoever took
the pictures had been fast or lucky or both. Two stills have the
runner in full flight. Turns out the guy is a reporter for Voice
of Nicaragua radio who had been interviewing the head of the local
Communist Party. The interviewee reportedly got angry when questioned
about the presence of American officials in the march and the rumored
U.S. Embassy support of other anti-government activities. The Communist
official reportedly got so incensed that he attacked the reporter
who then ran off, right past me. I wonder if the local press knew
the commie was a hothead and figured they might get a rise out of
Prensa only mentions the incident at the bottom of its march story.
The headline blares out that 20,000 people attended. El Nuevo Diario
claims 3,000. A cop estimated 3,000 to the San Diego reporter, while
a march leader I heard claimed 10,000 to 15,000.
the numbers, it appears that the government-line press as
well as La Prensa which claimed its people were roughed up at El
Calvario now has its own example of opposition attacks.
in Managua book published by Quimby Archives 1990.
Illustrations by Tim Gallivan & Miko Sandor.