Letters From Managua

Letters From Managua

Jose Figueroa does not understand why the Plaza de Espafia supermarket sells frozen Minute Maid orange juice imported from the United States when a dozen poor Nicaraguans hawk bags of sweet oranges in the supermarket’s parking lot. He is bewildered that Nicaragua now has only eight movie theaters, when on the eve of the country’s revolution in 1979 there were a hundred and thirty-six. And Jose is confused when leaders of his party, the Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN), say that the party “remains revolutionary, but in the modern sense of the word.” He asks, “What does that mean?”

Like many talented young Nicaraguans of his generation, Jose entrusted twenty years of his life, his youth and more, to a politically charged set of ideals: revolution, equality, progress, and socialism. Now his memories are unsettling, disorienting, and bizarre. Aside from its abject poverty, Nicaragua shows next to no sign of its traumatic revolution. Jose’s memento is a thick, heavy winter coat he used to wear when in the Soviet Union, completely useless in Nicaragua’s tropical heat. Jose’s past, and his present efforts to fit into the Nicaragua that has emerged out of what he helped create, are symptomatic for many in the country: the best decades of life are seen as having been spent futilely—even, sometimes, ridiculously—but nonetheless there are no regrets. Remorse is absent because the prevailing intellectual climate, so he believes, persuasively dictated the choices he made.

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