The 1940s is not typically the decade scholars associate with student protest. Yet throughout Central America, young people took to the streets en masse to protest authoritarian regimes. In Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, students were key members of coalitions that sought to overthrow dictators and enact democratic reform. Focusing on Nicaragua, this article uncovers the global and regional currents that turned youth into a salient political category, albeit one with significant limitations. A generalized association of youth with political change, as well as the prominence of student leaders in democratic upheavals in neighboring countries, inspired and legitimized the political activism of young Nicaraguans. Their aggressive protests encouraged the wider society to join the growing opposition movement, destabilized the Somoza regime, and turned students into icons of the opposition. In the end, though, neither their record of risky activism nor their symbolic status was enough to earn them real political power. For student activists in Nicaragua, youthfulness both helped and hindered their political aspirations.


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pp. 390-411
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