Our first interview was with a Nicaraguan high school professor who has been teaching French for the last 12 years. She grew up in Nicaragua and has spent the majority of her life here but has traveled abroad as well--giving her a unique perspective on Nicaragua and it's future. All interviews with her are in Spanish.
Over the last ten years there have been three different governments here. The first was, let's say, communist and the last two were democratic. Therefore, what changes have you seen take place in Nicaragua as a result of these different governments?
In the last ten years I believe that Nicaragua has changed a lot. There has been a lot of construction and a lot of commerce--a lot. And those are two things which I think are very important to Nicaragua because before 10 years ago we were like static. It was as if we had stopped-no progress was seen, no advances were seen, and there were many limitations. And I think that now there are a lot more ways to have fun.
When did the most drastic changes take place?
Let's say that it began with Violeta Chamorro, but it has continued and accelerated. Little by little we have reached the point where other nations accept that Nicaragua is living in a period of piece and that Nicaragua needs their help. So there have been independent institution, organizations, and governments which have made it their interest to support Nicaragua. The changes which were begun with Violeta Chamorro have been sustained and each time the changes are more major. I think that now, in the last two years, there has been a real explosion. Because right now we have the major expansion of Metrocentro, the building of McDonalds, the construction of several big buildings on the Masaya Highway, we have hotels. So really, in the last two years, we have seen like an explosion.
Do you think that this explosion has benefited the poor people or just the middle and upper classes?
No, I think that since it's construction it has created jobs and still provides employment for the poor. But it's going to benefit the rich as well because, for example, in Metrocentro all of the shops have already been sold. (Metrocentro is Nicaragua's only mall and contained about 12 shops before the reconstruction began in March of 1998. It will reopen the beginning of 1999 with about 40 shops and an expanded grocery store.) Before they even started to build they had sold them. A friend of mine is going to open a shop and she had to buy it before it had even been built, only from the plans.
What exactly happened to the economy when the Sandinistas took power in 1979?
The problem when the Sandinistas took power was the a major part of the budget was allocated to the war. So the people were denied in order to continue the war.
But the people were delighted when the Sandinistas took power, right?
No, the people were delighted that Somoza was gone because there were money problems during the Somoza era. Nevertheless, the people became disillusioned with the Sandinistas because they expected the changes to benefit the people. But, logically, when the mandatory military service began, when the young people started to die, when food rationing began, when the queues to buy anything began, when businesses started to disappear, the reduction of products-things which the people might not be able to buy but that they could at least see or buy on credit-could no longer be found during the Sandinista regime.
Some people say that the Sandinistas were really Communists who were controlled by the USSR and Cuba and who tried to portray an image of Socialism. Others say that they really were Socialists and they had different ideas and procedures from Cuba and the USSR. What do you think?
Since the Sandinista Front publicly announced themselves as a popular government, they clearly stated that they had things in common with those countries since they were popular governments as well-that was the explanation that they gave. Products which were produced in those countries began to be sold here.
I've heard that the Sandinistas, while the revolution against Somoza was going on, said that they were not going to Communist or very Socialist and that the ideas which they propagated were not too radical but that once in power they suddenly began to move toward Communist policies and more and more Communist ideas were instituted.
They never said that they were Communist, but yes, there were more Communist policies in the school programs, in the organization of the people. The same organizational systems that were used in Cuba were instituted here-the same women's organizations, the same youth organizations, the same general public organizations, the same urban organizations-see? And the objective of those organizations was to educated the people with that mentality.