Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga

Structural Patterns

Reflections on Art, Technology and Society

Archive for January 17th, 2010

Earthquake In Poverty

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The Port-au-Prince earthquake brings to mind the 1972 Managua earthquake and in wondering about the future of Haiti, I can’t help to question if old parallels between Haiti and Nicaragua will continue or if the 21st century presents a better future. I bring up a 40 year old earthquake, because there are so many historical parallels between Haiti and Nicaragua:

both were once Banana Republics of the United States.

both were once ruled by dictatorial dynasties supported by the U.S.: Somoza Dynasty (1936-1979) <=> Duvalier family (1957-1986). It’s uncertain to whom Roosevelt was referring to when he said “He may be a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch…” whether it was Anastasio Somoza or Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, but it could have been made by later presidents about Papa Doc or Baby Doc.

Today both countries remain amongst the poorest of the Americas and both countries are susceptible to natural disasters.

In the late 1960s or very early 70s, Howard Hughes was in talks with Somoza to establish Nicaragua as a tourist destination due to its natural beauty. Had these plans come to fruition, Nicaragua today could be much like Costa Rica, but in 1972 the capital of Nicaragua, Managua was struck by a 6.5 earthquake which destroyed nearly 90% of the city and Hughes soon left the country along with his plans.

International aid arrived and Somoza became even wealthier. Rather than using the relief money to rebuild Managua, create jobs and homes for the poor, Somoza stole foreign aid and stifled industry. Today the ruins of old Managua remain in place with poor people living in them, the new Managua has been built around the ruins with little organization or long term planning. Shanty towns can be found adjacent to the old downtown and there are many sections that do not have running water or formal electricity. Nicaragua, where the streets have no name, remains amongst the poorest countries of the Americas, usually second to Haiti. The history of course is a lot more complex than the 1972 quake, none the less, the earthquake and its scars are very much present.

It’s 2010, a corrupt dictator does not rule over Haiti, however in an impoverished nation with weak civic infrastructure it’s not difficult to envision the future Port-au-Prince in today’s Managua.

Written by ricardo

January 17th, 2010 at 11:50 am