“Here Was Granada” (1856) & “Here Was Nicaragua” (2020)

In 1856, William Walker inscribed on the ruins of the city he had burned: “Here was Granada”. In 2022, the expression may be: “Here was Nicaragua"

On October 12, 1856, Guatemalan colonel Jose Victor Zavala crossed the city plaza to the house where William Walker’s soldiers had taken refuge. It had taken them more than two weeks to squash, burn and raze the city. All that was left were inscriptions on the ruins that read: “Here was Granada”.

That phrase “Here was Granada”, became indelibly associated with William Walker for all posterity.

I don’t know if the current city of Granada still conserves the memory of that phrase. What I do know is that a new phrase, for which you needn’t seek any inscription, has substituted the former.

“Here was Nicaragua.”

What names will posterity associate with that phrase?

Part of the systematic destruction of Nicaragua is exactly the fact that we’re all going to accuse each other, one against another, for the destruction of the largest country in Central America. No one will accept responsibility for being the candle that set fire to the country, much less will we do what we can to put out the fire.

When did the systematic destruction of the country begin? You can’t put a date on this, since the answer depends on your ideological filter. What’s clear is that the one responsible for the destruction is “the other”.

If you’ve been on the bottom, you blame the one on top; and if you’ve been on top, you blame the one on the bottom. Further, on more than one or two occasions, both those on the bottom and those on the top have blamed the “outsider’. However you do it, “the other” is always to blame.

We’ve been sold a version of the story that those who killed Sandino weren’t Nicaraguans, when no one is ignorant of the fact that Somoza, as well as those who carried out the fatal order [to assassinate him], were without exception all born in Nicaragua.

Later, in 1979, those that left power blamed US President Jimmy Carter for “betraying Nicaragua”.

Still later, in 1990, the one that didn’t win the elections blamed the same group (the USA), which ten years earlier had served as intermediaries in the transition of power from the dying Somoza regime to the emerging government Junta, via the Bowdler Commission in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Later, in 1998-2000, the guy from above, who in his time used the slogan “projects, not words”, [Arnold Aleman, president of Nicaragua from 1997–2002] made a political pact with the one “governing from below” [Daniel Ortega]. This pact basically established: “If I’m on top, it’s like you’re on top too; and if you’re on top, it’s like I’m on top.”

And what about those on the bottom? For the Pact, “those on the bottom” were never part of the political arrangements, or rather, said political arrangement had the aim of denying those underneath any chance of participating in making of decisions that affected them.

The destruction of the country continued in 2006, by immortalizing the minimum percentage of 38% for an election win, a concession and expected consequence of the Aleman-Ortega Pact. This did irreversible damage to the country, by making it possible for the majority to be subordinated to the minority.

From that time on, any relevant distinction between two (and reducing to two) political offers a voter could choose between was eliminated. From then on, the factors distinguishing the one side from the other weren’t their different programs or offers to the Nicaraguan people.

Two new terms began to come into use, substituting for the terms “Sandinistas” or “Liberals”. These terms were “principled” or “pragmatic”. The first were those who ingenuously thought that there were two sides to every coin, and the second, those who were resigned to accepting that it didn’t matter which side the coin fell on, since with the pact, the coin had only one side.

It was evident that this represented the disarticulation of the little institutional solidity that had been attempted, a system which although imperfect gave the excluded a chance.

As a consequence of the pact and the induced or natural atomization of those on “the other side of the street”, the arrangement resulted in a one-party system to the detriment of everyone else. It dissolved the differences between the principled and the pragmatists, and, in a kind of political algebra, it reduced the country to its minimum expression.

And everyone justified it as “not my fault”. Everyone affirmed: “I’ve carried out in good faith the part that fell to me, the ones who did wrong are the others.”

January of 2022 is the date in which the expression “Here was Nicaragua” will be registered, like Walker’s 1856 inscription, “Here was Granada”.

The electoral result of November 2021 doesn’t matter, be it the status quo that gets its way or that the new UNO party gets an edge over the FSLN. In either case, those on the bottom, the great mass of citizens, will have little or nothing to gain.

If the status quo, the FSLN, gets its way, it will be on the basis of any kind of spurious promise except the illusion that “everything will be better”[(their campaign slogan in 1990].

If the new version of the UNO wins, they’ll be sharing out the Pyrrhic victory in the absence of a solid alternative project, giving way to internal struggles like we witnessed in 1990, with the “white collar” duel of Alfredo Cesar versus Antonio Lacayo, to mention two, who weren’t the only ones at that time.

This time the phrase won’t be in English, like Walker’s “Here was Granada”, but Aqui fue Nicaragua” [Here was Nicaragua] in the language of the Spanish conquistadores, in which Ruben Dario wrote his lyric poetry.

*The writer is a Nicaraguan who resides in California. [email protected]

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