Posted by Vladimir Penaloza – MA Candidate at CLACS
Published Photo Reprinted from the book Deutsche Schule Managua 25 Jahre
When I started this research, I was interested in the incarceration and expropriation of assets of German nationals in Nicaragua during World War II. Once I arrived in Nicaragua and began going through the archives, I realized that the footprint of Germans in Nicaragua was much greater than I had previously known. Germans have been present in Nicaragua ever since the mid 19th century. The majority of them settled in the highlands of Matagalpa and Jinotega, a two-hour drive north of Managua, an area conducive to coffee harvesting.
By 1852, a few families of German descent had settled in the region of Matagalpa, the most prominent of these families was that of Ludwig “Luis” Elster and his wife Katharina Braun. Luis Elster and his wife established the first finca in the north of Nicaragua, in which they helped introduce coffee to this region. After the Elsters, the influx of Germans increased making the region a center for German migration in Nicaragua. Currently, Matagalpa is the hub of of coffee growing in Nicaragua.
Posted by Vladimir Penaloza – MA Candidate at CLACS at NYU
Anastasio Somoza has been portrayed as a wily politician who was able to appeal to both liberals and conservatives. He was also successful in gaining recognition and support from the United States. According to Knut Walter, who wrote a seminal book on Somoza entitled The Regime of Anastasio Somoza: 1936-1956, Somoza’s regime was an “outwardly personalistic dictatorship” (xviii).
While conducting research at the Archivo Nacional, located in the National Palace in Managua, Nicaragua, there was a collection of letters from people of all social standing, who wrote to Somoza. People wrote to Anastasio Somoza Garcia requesting, and sometimes begging, for his help. These letters contained requests as varied as the people sending them, for example, there were request for jobs, money, and even soliciting Somoza to buy their property. It is obvious that to a lot of people Somoza was much more than just a politician, General and dictator – he was a line of last resort, one could even say savior. One case in particular affected me the most: that of Iris Proudfoot who was living in San José, Costa Rica at the time she wrote to Somoza on July 21, 1954. In her letter, she requests that Somoza call her husband, Evener Arévalo Ortega, to his [Somoza’s] office. She has been trying to divorce him, but her husband is refusing to grant the divorce. In the letter she goes on to list her motives to ask for a divorce:
validación de agenda nacional, incluyendo creacion de plan de proteccion de promotoras y plan de incidencia politica.
Prior to arriving in Nicaragua, I was convinced I was going to research how women organize a pro-feminist women’s agenda to overturn restrictive reproductive rights policies. One such law that I was intent on researching was Nicaragua’s Codigo Penal, Articulo 165 that outlaws all forms of abortion, including therapeutic abortion, which means that women are not allowed to interrupt their pregnancies even if their lives are at risk. The ban and broader issues of abortion rights played a key role in the 2006 election that resulted in the return to power of former revolutionary and FSLN commander, Daniel Ortega. I originally planned on looking at this issue singularly and to assess it from a historical lens, to analyze top-down responses such as las casas maternas, which have sprouted throughout the country in response to the law that “prepare” women for parenting (even if their pregnancies were undesired), I intended to look at the Instituto Nicaraguense de la Mujer to analyze how the state approached reproductive rights, and, of course I was going to research women (feminists) organized response.
An interesting side note for readers, the right to a therapeutic abortion was a part of the 1893 Nicaraguan Codigo Penal, which means that Nicaragua has retrogressed over 100 years with this ban.