Allston journalist makes it in Managua with new book By Beverly Creasey

Allston-Brighton Journal, Boston, MA

Made in Managua, Allston native Lawrence J. Maushard’s new book, is a ramblin’ Jack Elliot account of a cocky young journalist’s visit to Managua to witness the results of the Arias peace proposal.

This “free man in a leftist state ‘o mind” reminds us that people are people no matter where you go: some are courageous, some vile. Maushard’s adventures make for edge of the seat reading. Once I started I couldn’t put the book down.

Most Americans haven’t a clue about Central America. Until president Reagan declared himself a “Contra” no one knew what side we were supporting. Even then people didn’t remember — or care. Maushard’s adventures make great copy and good history.

Maushard has the luxury as an independent journalist of going anywhere he wants to go. Judging from his first book of political observations, he leads a charmed life, entrusting his car to a family in Mexico in one episode — and finding it, remarkably, waiting for him on his way back to Boston. Maushard says he tried to make the book “both informational and entertaining…because no one wants to read dry politics.”

Maushard is a throwback to the days when a Hemingway would set out in search of a war. Since publication of Maushard’s book, he’s traveled to Egypt, aiming specifically for the Gaza Strip “because you hear lots of stories coming out of the West Bank but nothing from the Gaza Strip.” He was stopped cold at the border by Israeli guards and eventually ended up in Cairo — but that’s another book.

Contrary to popular press reports, Maushard says most Egyptians didn’t care about Operation Desert Storm. “They’re more worried about day-to-day living than any political fallout…Everyone in Egypt faces a struggle: professors, professionals and the people living in the street. It shakes you up to see women and children begging and living on the sidewalk.”

Maushard is one journalist who makes no pretense of so-called journalistic “objectivity.” He says he goes where he cares about a situation. He tries to give both sides but has “no problem” letting his bias show. Not that he can’t change his mind. “I’ll adjust my thinking,” he says, if he finds a different light on a subject.

“Just being there and reporting on it is interacting,” Maushard says. And “interacting is affecting the story. (The reporter) is part of the story because he’s involved.” Maushard proudly asserts that he’ll “let his heart hang out on his sleeve.” This is one journalist who cares. “You’re under an obligation to help — even if you’re reporting. You have to have your humanity first.”

If Americans want to get a feel for the people and the politics of Central America, unfiltered through the evening news, Made in Managua is the book to read. (August 1991)

 

Journalist Experiences Nicaragua After Dark: Irreverent Account of Shell-Shocked Society By P. Gregory Maravilla
The Harvard Crimson

Rarely can Americans fathom what goes on outside the United States. Maybe the widespread poverty and violence in American cities approximate the conditions of poor, war-torn Third World countries, but the conflict we see at home will always be the conflict of a rich society.

When American journalists make the occasional sojourn into the world beyond our borders, they are usually insulated from harm and produce relatively mild accounts of their trips. One such trek has given Lawrence J. Maushard the material for his new book, Made in Managua.

Seen through the eyes of a liberal white American, Made in Managua is a memoir of Maushard’s nonchalant exploration of Nicaragua at the end of its civil war. The book does not attempt to relate the experiences of the war-torn citizens of Managua, but Maushard does succeed within his limited scope — he gives a superb fresh-out-of-college journalist’s depiction of his jaunt through North America’s most bitter war zone.

Maushard embarks from Boston in his “beast,” a dilapidated car that takes him to southern Mexico. His $900 already wearing thin, Maushard makes a valuable friendship with a Nicaraguan franchise operator, Donald, who helps him to the Nicaraguan border. The acquaintance really pays off when this wealthy merchant provides Maushard with the food, shelter and information he needs to survive in Nicaragua’s capital city.

The author plays the whole journey by ear; he frequently does not know where he will stay or where his next meal will come from. This lackadaisical attitude drowns out any political insights that Maushard might have gleaned from the trip. Instead, he dwells on satisfying his primal urges for women and devotes considerable effort to describing each one he encounters.

When he is not smoking pot, drinking and “getting laid,” Maushard manages to scratch the surface of a Nicaraguan culture scarred by civil war. The people he encounters and the protests he witnesses produce an unsettling ambiguity about who is the hero and who the villain in the jumble of Nicaraguan society.

Maushard originally set out for Central America as a freelance journalist to cover the announcement of the Arias Peace Plan in Managua. While this pedestrian premise may disappoint Hemingway idealists and leave Michener mavericks unsatisfied, the book gives a surprisingly novel and realistic perspective of Nicaragua — albeit from the viewpoint of a privileged, aging hippie.

Maushard triumphs for precisely this reason: he makes no pretense of providing a masterpiece of literature. He recounts an adventure, a personal involvement.

Made in Managua offers a simple, contemporary account of a single American’s brief encounter with the tumult of Central American politics. Maushard effectively provides us with an unpolished, but rewarding portrait of Nicaragua. Although his brief account is not particularly insightful, it paints a memorable picture of something most Americans will never know. (1991)

 

He was there: Peoria native has an adventure in Contraland
By Bryan Oberle

The Journal Star (Peoria, IL)

From New York Times reporter Harrison Salisbury’s extraordinary visit to Hanoi during the Vietnam War, to Hunter S. Thompson’s hilarious and insightful tales of the 1972 presidential campaign, first-person journalistic accounts have a long and rich history in American literature.

Made in Managua, a paperback book by Peoria native Lawrence J. Maushard about a trip to Nicaragua during the Contra war, is a limited but somewhat successful attempt at this sort of reporting.

Maushard, 31, a graduate of the Academy of Our Lady/Spalding Institute and Illinois State University, has written a frank book.

He candidly says that his reasons for going to Nicaragua were job misfortune and boredom. After starting his journalistic career at the Pana-News Palladium, Maushard lost his job at the Pekin Daily Times when a drunken-driving charge cost him his license.

“My journalism career needed some hard fix in a bad way,” Maushard writes. “Plus, I figured if James Wood (in the film Salvador) could drive to and return from that Salvadoran hellhole, I could make out at least as well in lukewarm Nicaragua. Let’s face it, the Sandinistas got all the street fighting done years ago.”

In October 198(7), Maushard left a warehouse job in Boston and set out for Nicaragua in his 1975 Nova with $900.

His primary aim was to be on hand when the Sandinistas made a formal response to Costa Rican President Oscar Arias’ peace accords, the first step toward ending the Reagan administration’s war by proxy with Nicaragua’s leftist government.

Maushard’s goals were few. Traveling as a freelance writer, he wanted to see how the Nicaraguans actually felt about the peace process, the Contra war and Americans.

To his credit, Maushard doesn’t feign objectivity. He believes the Contras were a creation of the Central Intelligence Agency, and the United States’ backing of this dirty little war was at best disgraceful. While no friend of the Sandinistas, Maushard seems willing to give the slayers of the brutal Somoza dictatorship the benefit of the doubt.

His reporting serves up little tidbits of information. Most Managuans whom Maushard talked to disliked the Sandinistas (no surprise considering elections in 1990 swept them out of power), were suspicious of the Contras and distrusted U.S. motives in Central America.

The book contains some interesting sketches of individual Nicaraguans. In Managua, Maushard stays with a well-heeled gas station owner named Donald, who adds color to the book. Maushard handles with skill a chapter about meeting the publisher of Managua’s spunky independent paper, La Prensa.

Maushard didn’t let reporting get in the way of his fun. The best sections of the 162-page paperback concern Maushard’s adventures with suspect food, a continuing search for female companionship, his thirst for beer and longings for a marijuana cigarette.

Maushard’s prose is simple but quite adequate. He is clearly comfortable with the written word and refrains from overwriting, a crime common to this kind of book.

In terms of history and politics, Maushard’s book is by no means complete. If you are looking for a comprehensive, historically significant first-person work on the lines of William Shirer’s Berlin Diary, Maushard’s book isn’t it.

But if an amusing and informative first-person travel piece in the mode of P.J. O’Rourke’s Rolling Stone stories appeals to you, Made in Managua is worth your time. (February 14, 1991)

Book illustration by Tim Gallivan.