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Front AROUND THE EDGE /Peter Ford In 1988 Peter Ford, an English journalist, decided to travel the Caribbean coast of Central America. Ford began in Belize and journeyed south, by boat and on foot, through Guatemala, Honduras , Nicaragua and Costa Rica, until he reached Panama; there his trip was cut short by Panamanian officials. Ford's upcoming book, Around the Edge, chronicles the trip and includes interesting anecdotes and descriptions of the region, as well as information about its history. The following excerpt describes the resistance Ford encountered from Sandinista officials when he attempted to enter Nicaragua, and recounts the first part of his trip down the Coco River in the company of Indian guerillas. PUERTO LEMPIRA WAS NAMED after a heroic Indian chief, whose noble features glare proudly from Honduran banknotes, but there was nothing noble or heroic about the sweaty, sullen town skulking on the edge of the Caratasca lagoon. A few low municipal buildings of breezeblock and corrugated iron elevated Lempira from the status of village to regional capital of the Honduran Mosquitia. Its potholed roads were covered with gravel, but such pretensions could not disguise the town's self-conscious embarrassment at lying at the end of the world. Its inhabitants all had the air of being up to no good, sidling suspiciously about their business with mistrustful looks on their faces, and the hot stagnant air, unmoved by a breath of wind, was heavy with intrigue. This was the headquarters of the Eastern front of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's war against the Sandinistas. The. local CIA man's home was pointed out to me. Known as Chuck Norris to townspeople scornful of his self-importance but impressed by his helicopter, he lived in the middle of the dusty parade ground of the Honduran army barracks. There, surrounded by open space across which no one could creep without being detected, sat a ship's container, painted a dull red with a line of once significant code letters stencilled in white. At one end of this squat box an entrance had been cut out with a blowtorch, and filled with a heavy metal door. Onto one side an air conditioning unit had been bolted. In that windowless tomb, certain of his The Missouri Review ยท 51 security, lived the luckless American charged with organizing the Miskitos into an effective armed struggle against Managua. One way or another the Miskitos had been waging war on the Sandinista government since 1982, fighting what many of them saw as merely a renewal of their people's historic hostilities with the "Spaniards," using American rather than British guns. Because while the Somoza family that ruled Nicaragua for forty years had been content to leave the coast alone and let its Indians get on with their isolated lives, the Sandinista authorities had stormed into the area in 1979 full of revolutionary fervor and plans to incorporate the coast into the new Nicaragua. This was not welcomed by a people who hankered for their British colonial past, believed strongly in the conservative precepts of the Moravian church, and never trusted anyone from Managua. Nor did the Sandinistas' passion for land reform and agricultural cooperatives have the slightest relevance to traditional Miskito systems of land tenure. The government's efforts to bring doctors and teachers to the coast did not earn any praise either. Many of them were Cubans, from Fidel Castro's hated communist stronghold, against which the Bay of Pigs invasion had been launched from this very coast; and even if these socialist missionaries were well intentioned, their comrades setting up the state security service were not. Nothing could endear the Sandinistas to their unwilling citizens, not even the creation of their own organization, which the government had thought might help. Three young Miskitos with secondary education, ambitious and articulate, were put in charge of MISURASATA, which stood for "Miskitos, Sumus, Ramas and Sandinistas Asia Takanka," or "working together." They didn't work together for very long. While Brooklyn Rivera, Steadman Fagoth, and Hazel Lau got down to working out an autonomy charter for the Caribbean coast, the Sandinistas began worrying that the Indians were going to secede. On the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 51-74
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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