Latin American Research Review 40.1 (2005) 202-206
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Through Revolution and Beyond:
Mobilization, Demobilization, and Adjustment in Central America
John A. Booth
Assessment of the revolutionary experience in Central America continues as scholars examine how revolutionary organizations and institutions, civil society, and individuals experienced the turmoil of mobilization in the 1970s and 1980s and then adjusted to the end of revolution, armed struggle, and political peace in the 1990s. These books, three of which focus on Nicaragua and the Sandinista experience and one of which encompasses El Salvador and Guatemala as well, reveal much about the lived revolution and its aftermath. They explore how citizens and activists became mobilized into revolutionary collective action, their understanding of how political participation altered their sense of themselves, and how the passing of Central America's revolutionary moment has transformed their efforts, life conditions, and organizations.
Adam Jones's Beyond the Barricades: Nicaragua and the Struggle for the Sandinista Press, 1979-1998 is a straightforward history of the Sandinista [End Page 202] daily newspaper Barricada from its birth to death. From extensive access to its files and back issues to dozens of interviews with key figures at the revolutionary paper, the author lays out the paper's evolution, from its inception marked by the capture of the plant of the Somoza-owned Novedades through nineteen years of evolution. The newspaper, owned by the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN), evolved from its early mission as a propaganda organ with a mobilizing and educative mission into a paper with a more professional journalistic mission during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Jones relates how Barricada remained loyal to the party and revolution while developing a cadre of experienced, talented journalists under the leadership of editor Carlos Fernando Chamorro and the protection and advocacy of FSLN directorate member Bayardo Arce. Basically unsubsidized and supporting itself with circulation, state advertising revenues (shared with other papers), and a profitable printing business, the paper helped finance the FSLN (rather than the reverse). The revolution's demise cut circulation deeply, and losses of state printing contracts and state advertising during the Alemán administration destroyed the paper economically and forced it to close in 1998.
Jones's most significant contribution concerns the struggle for control of Barricada during the early 1990s as the FSLN went through a power struggle and its subsequent self-criticism after losing the 1990 election. At the peak of its editorial quality, the paper identified with the Sandinista Renovation Movement that struggled to democratize the party. For this, editor Chamorro and many others others were sacked (others resigned) by the victorious hard-line wing of the party, led by Daniel Ortega, and were replaced in October 1994 by Tomás Borge and a new editorial team. The paper returned to its mobilizing mission, declined in editorial quality, and collapsed economically.
The theme of loss and how to cope pervades Inger Lundgren's Lost Visions and New Uncertainties: Sandinista Profesionales in Northern Nicaragua. This social-anthropological study of Sandinista middle sector workers in the provincial city of Estelí after the end of the revolution examines the effects of lost influence, status, political vision, and party support after it was ousted from power, and the ramifications for economic resources, family, and social...