On our way back from Masaya with Roberto, we passed a group of people wearing shirts in support of Daniel Ortega, the current president, and riding motorcycles. Roberto informed us that they were Sandinistas, a political party named for Augusto Cesar Sandino who fought against U.S. occupation of Nicaragua back in the 30s (I feel rather hypocritical linking to Wikipedia, as I once told my students that if they cited Wikipedia as a source, “they would make me cry.”). I believe the current Sandinistas are supporters of the Ortega, who was also a member of this group.
As we drove by the Sandinista biker gang, I couldn’t help but notice that they were all pretty young, roughly around my age. This observation made me think of something David, our Granada tour guide, had said. He was of the belief that this govenrment, these politicians, create evenets that suck in the youth and use them to make it appear as though they have a lot of support. More often than not, the youth aren’t aware they’re being used in this sense. (On a related note: I just finished Game Change, a fascinating book about the 2008 election, that alluded to similar strategies used at conventions and rallies to make it seem as though the candidate is extremely popular. Perception is everything, but that’s another rant.) I also noticed that there was a black and red flag on the back of each bike. After that, I started noticing that there were red and black swatches painted on walls and around telephone poles. I’d seen them before, but now I started connecting the two as being Sandinista symbols. Further (Wikipedia-based) research revealed that the red and black colors come from a Mexican anarchist movement that Sandino was involved with in the 1930s. Additionally, there were many slogans painted on the cement walls that lined the main road into Managua such as “Viva Daniel!” “Viva la revolucion!” “Sandinistas” and “FSNL.”
What was interesting about all this, however, was that as we got closer to Managua, more black swatches appeared on the walls, as if someone had attempted to paint over the pro-government phrases. On the city line was a phrase, “menos propaganda, mas informacion” that remains imprinted on my memory. I feel as though we’re in a similar situation in America – most of what we hear is essentially propaganda, paid for by those with the money and power. It’s becoming increasingly more difficult to separate what’s real from what’s contrived. This makes it even more important to pay attention to what the media is saying and to attempt to read between the lines. Critical thinking and reading skills are more essential than ever (I’m not just saying that because I’m an English teacher). We can’t peacefully accept what the media and the politicians spoonfeed us, because everything they say is a means to an end.
That being said, make sure you’re registered to vote!!