Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga

Structural Patterns

Reflections on Art, Technology and Society

Archive for the ‘Nicaragua’ tag

Nicaraguan LGBTQ Community

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I recently read the essay “Tacit Subjects” by Carlos Ulises Decena in which the author interviews several homosexual individuals from the Dominican Republic. Decena focuses on the coming out or not of gay Dominican men to their families. Amongst the subjects interviewed for the essay, their homosexuality is unspoken but recognized by their family members, hence the title “Tacit Subjects.”

Upon reading the essay, I was immediately transported to the awe that I felt in 1995 upon witnessing my first Torovenado in Masaya, Nicaragua. Throughout my life I had only visited Nicaragua during the summer and I had enjoyed the initial celebrations of the three month festivities for San Jeronimo, the patron saint of my mom’s hometown – Masaya. El Torovenado – a satirical procession occurs at the end of the celebrations – the final Sunday of October. In 1995, I moved to Nicaragua for an extended period and the uncle with whom I was living, invited to take me to El Torovenado. Mi Tio Jorge enjoys a good party and is not particularly religious, so I was a little surprised that he’d want to go to the culmination of a saint’s festivities. However, I noted a mischievous spark in his eye and I agreed to join him on the 20 minute drive to Masaya.

I was dumbfounded upon seeing a giant gay parade in my mom’s hometown. It was as if the San Francisco Castro that I grew up with had transported itself to Masaya. There, before me, was the Lion’s Club (El Club de Leones) Queen – queen of the parade – a proper queen, entirely in beautiful drag. Everywhere I looked the rainbow flag was flying high. I think my uncle truly enjoyed at how speechless I was.

The culmination of this Catholic festivity had been co-opted by the gay community and everyone appeared to be fine with it. Since El Torovenado is a satirical procession in which people are allowed to mock anything and everyone – from historical figures to the most powerful political figures, in retrospect, it makes sense that the gay community took over this particular day of celebration; after all it’s a day of freedom, when social norms are discarded. El Torovenado is alternately called La Parada de los Cochones.

I feel that Nicaragua has always been more accepting of its gay community than other Latin American countries and I think that the 1979 victory of the Sandinistas allowed greater freedom for the LGBTQ communities through the 80s. The Torovenado allows the large numbers of the gay community to gather and party. Here is a 5 minute video documentation of the 2017 Torovenado (before the current Ortegista repression and militarization of the country):

In relation to the gay Dominicans featured in “Tacit Subjects,” these are people (primarily men) who are out and proud and the public persona that they present particularly in a festive procession may be very different than who they are with their family. Perhaps the acceptance of the gay community in Nicaragua allows young people to come out and discuss sexuality more openly than in the DR and it is not such a tacit subject. However, macho culture exists as in the rest of Latin America and I would not be surprised if a large portion of this community is alienated from their birth families and have constructed or adopted new families based on their sexuality.

There is an interesting book that I’ve only read passages from that goes in depth regarding the gay community following the Sandinista revolution – Intimate Activism: The Struggle for Sexual Rights in Postrevolutionary Nicaragua by Cymene Howe. The book discusses El Torovenado:

according to Erick Blandon, the Torovenado is a ‘moment of escape from oppressive heterosexual masculinity and a dialogic engagement between different sexual subjects where homoeroticism becomes the center of attention for both homosexuals and heterosexuals.’ While transvestics are not the quotidian norm in Nicaragua, it is clear that the country has had a public and symbolic space for these kinds of gendered performances.

Howe, Cymene, Intimate Activism: The Struggle for Sexual Rights in Postrevolutionary Nicaragua, Duke University Press, 2013

With the current violence and repression by the Ortega dictatorship, I wonder how the LGBTQ community is doing. Have they become a tacit community? Are they remaining in-doors as does the majority of the population come nightfall? The LGBTQ Nicaraguan population has largely thrived due to the safety and acceptance of the country, but with assassins trolling the streets, freedom and expressiveness may no longer be available. It is so sad that the military leaders will allow a single couple – Ortega and Murillo hold an entire country hostage and have destroyed the legacy of a popular revolution.

Written by ricardo

March 22nd, 2019 at 11:42 am

Metamorphosis of Ortega into Somoza

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With each manipulation of the Nicaraguan constitution by Ortega and the Sandinista party, I feel a deep sadness for the impoverished country. I am also dumbfounded at the short-sightedness of the ruling party and the ignorant avarice of Daniel Ortega who will not hand over the political reigns of the country to a new generation. Prosperity has been illusive to this small country that has suffered a long-lasting dictatorship, natural disaster, a popular revolution and seemingly inherent political corruption. If only a true leader would emerge who seeks an end to corruption and the engineering of a society striving for the well-being of all its people. Unfortunately, since the Nicaraguan National Assembly elected to eliminate presidential term limits, an end to poverty and corruption appears as distant as the worst period of the Somoza dynasty. Ortega has effectively become Somoza.

Written by ricardo

May 27th, 2014 at 11:50 am

“Political tension in Nicaragua: The new Somoza”

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The following is a concise article on the current worsening situation in Nicaragua:
Feb 19th 2009 | MANAGUA, From The Economist print edition

Daniel Ortega’s slide to autocracy

Ortega, the new Somoza

LATER this year Daniel Ortega will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the revolution that toppled the notorious American-backed dictatorship of the Somoza family and brought his left-wing Sandinista movement to power. Though Mr Ortega is once again president, as he was in the 1980s, in other ways Nicaraguan politics have changed radically. Most of his fellow revolutionary
leaders have left the Sandinista Party and are now in opposition. And Mr. Ortega is well on the way to establishing an autocracy, albeit a bankrupt one, in cahoots with former somocistas.

The latest step came last month when the Sandinista-controlled Supreme Court quashed a 20-year sentence for embezzlement against Arnoldo Alemán, a former president (and once an official in the Somoza dictatorship). Several years ago Mr Alemán forged an unacknowledged alliance of convenience with Mr. Ortega, which Nicaraguans call “the pact”. This wavered when Mr Ortega ignored the opposition’s complaints that a pliant electoral authority allowed the Sandinistas to steal municipal elections in November, which independent observers were banned from scrutinising. But hours after Mr Alemán’s absolution his Liberal Constitutional Party ended a filibuster in the National Assembly and voted to let the Sandinistas run the legislature’s affairs.

The next step, opponents fear, will be to get the assembly to vote for a constitutional reform that would allow Mr Ortega, like his friend Hugo Chávez in Venezuela (see article), to stand for re-election. Or it might involve adopting a semi-parliamentary system in which Mr Alemán would run for president but Mr Ortega would cling to power as prime minister.

The result of November’s municipal elections, in which the Sandinistas claimed to have won Managua, the capital, have still not been published. That has not stopped Mr Ortega from holding a floodlit ceremony to acclaim the new mayors. But if Nicaraguans have had to swallow the results, foreigners have not. The United States and the European Union have suspended much of their aid (some $200m between them) pending an electoral review. Since there is no sign of that, “There is a real risk that the [aid] programme will be withdrawn,” a European spokesman says.

Until recently Mr Ortega could scoff at these threats, since he enjoyed the largesse of Mr Chávez. But the fall in the oil price means that this is drying up. Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the Americas. The budget, already cut by 4% compared with last year, is “unsustainable”, according to Bayardo Arce, a Sandinista leader. Capital is fleeing and remittances are falling. Mr Ortega is looking to Russia for support.  (Nicaragua is the only country other than Russia to grant diplomatic recognition to South Ossetia, an enclave carved out of Georgia.)

Already unpopular, Mr Ortega seems to have miscalculated in alienating aid donors. Since the municipal election he has deployed gangs of uniformed thugs to break up opposition protests. So far they are armed only with staves, stones and homemade mortars. His regime is starting to resemble the dictatorship he once helped to overthrow. One of the original Sandinista leaders now in opposition says he feels obliged to meet contacts in secret, “as we used to do under Somoza”.

Pearl Friedberg
LAC Program Associate

Illustration by Claudio Munoz

Written by ricardo

February 20th, 2009 at 3:32 pm

Nicaragua in Disarray

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In November, the Nicaraguan municipal elections were held and the Sandinista Party claimed the majority of victories as ballots were found in the trash.  Since Ortega re-wrote the constitution to retake the presidency in 2006, the county has become increasingly destabilized in every aspect – political and economic.  Ortega doesn’t seem to care and any protest against his regime is silenced by Sandinista mobs, a tactic once used by Somoza.

Senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, Kevin Casas-Zamora has written a plea to he international community to pay attention to the worsening situation in Nicaragua.  The following are excerpts from Casas-Zamora’s article:

“As the second-poorest nation in Latin America, Nicaragua can’t afford to descend into violence as it did during the cold-war days of the 1980s…

“A prosperous and democratic Nicaragua is crucial to stability in the region…

“If the current institutional arrangements prove to be – as they increasingly appear – impregnable to change, it is very likely that future political disputes will turn bloody. It has happened in Nicaragua before. The international community must not allow it to happen again…

“Ortega’s recent actions and statements are slightly more reminiscent of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. The latter, another former guerrilla leader who doesn’t seem to understand democratic ways, was allowed to wreck a small nation under the complacent gaze of its neighbors. Ortega is not yet another Mugabe.

“By using leverage now, the Western Hemisphere can help keep him from morphing into one.”

Written by ricardo

December 30th, 2008 at 7:34 pm