Home 603 Mesoamerica Cultures

Book List

Week 1-2 Carmack

Week 3 Whisnat

Week 4 Whisnat

Week 5 Whisnat

Week 6 Nash

Week 6 Essay 1 Question

Week 6 Essay

Week 7 Nash

Week 8 Manz

Week 9 Manz

Week 10 Binford

Week 11 Binford

Week 12 Oppenheimer

Week 12 Quinnones

Week 12 Essay 2 Question

Week 12 Essay 2

Week 13 Oppenheimer

Week 13 Quinnones

Week 14 Dow

Week 15 Dow

Final Paper


Victoria Kline
Anthropology 582: Mesoamerican Cultures
September 22, 2004
Dr. Ramona Perez

Rascally Signs in Sacred Places: Part II

Chapter 4 “Anything But Flowers,” jumps back in time to trace the undercurrent of opposition during the Somosa regime. There are two groups opposing the Somosa regime. One group consists of political conservatives that should be supporting the regime, but are not on the payroll; the second group is “mainly the liberals and university students” (151). Whisnant lays out this chapter in a few sentences on page 152 describing what he sees as the five main areas of resistance: the “vanguardia” movement; the Generation of 1940”; “student cultural movements from the “mid-1940s onwards” especially the 1960s and 1970s; opposition embedded in literature and music (mainly 1960s and onward); and, “the insurgency of the indigenous barrios in the mid-1970s.”
Vanguardistas – during the 1930s, a group of mostly young, educated, non-conformist, anti-interventionist, writers and poets with a flare for the theatrical. They published and presented revolutionary essays and poems that were influenced by autochthonous “rediscovery”. They especially disliked anything “Yankee.”

The Generation of 1940 was the group of writers that took over opposition to the Somoza regime where la vanguardia (the vanguardistas) left off. Student cultural movements from the 1940s to the 1970s took the form of sympathy to the Sandino crusade that manifested in political opposition writing and poetry in such offerings as the magazine “Ventana.” Women participated in the movement at this time.

After the 1960s, music in the form of “new song” became a way to further the message of opposition to the Somoza dictatorship. So it seems that the main resistance to the political oppression of the Somoza regime was in the form of written and performed literary contributions by students and other educated intellectuals of the time. They had the wherewithal to know that great injustices were being done. They had the ability to put that knowledge to words and to try to disseminate their ideals to others. 

Monimbo and Subtiava, two indigenous barrios, became the sites of autochthonous resistance and revolt, with marches in Subtiava and demonstrations in Monimbo. Monimbo demonstrations ended in a violent siege by the National Guard. The indigenous cultures, in the 1970s, were yet alive.
It was interesting to read about the Solentiname experimental community. It was in effect, a commune, in the same vein as the communes that popped up around the United States in the late 1960s through the 1970s. The ideals were much the same. Individuals worked in common for the community, taking meals communally as one big happy family. It was an exercise in sharing, getting along with others, taking care of others, contributing your share, and learning new trades.

In Chapter 5 “The Sandinista Cultural Project” we learn about the new government after the Somoza regime ends. The Sandanistas must be followers of the philosophies of Sandino, a leader in the rebellion against the Somoza regime. The new government after Somoza is made up of socialist thinking liberal intellectuals, mainly from privileged backgrounds, but with the best of intentions towards the people, the workers, and the indigenes. I kept wondering why, in Nicaragua (a country that seemed to be going through so much turmoil and poverty), would there be this repeated emphasis on a tiny little museum. Efforts to get museum and library systems going before the Sandinistas came into power fell far short. The importance of the museum becomes clear with the emphasis of the Sandinista government, which included focus on creating a sense of pride in culture, ancient and present day, and also adding to the culture in the way of education. These goals were best approached through the establishment or restoration, and maintenance of museums and libraries, and then programs that evolved from them. The Ministry of Culture was one of the important institutions formed by the Sandanistas. Project centers were formed for learning about popular culture and to give poetry workshops. To get away from the commercial influence of the United States media, the Sandinistas sought to gain back control of film and television programming realizing the potency of this form of communication. Lack of funds was the greatest obstacle to reaching the idealistic goals proposed by the Sandinista Culture Project.  

As well intentioned as the Sandanista government was, there was of course opposition to the new programs being put into place. Chapter 6 “Opposition to the Sandinista Cultural Policy and Programs” describes the problems encountered by the new government. There were conflicts and power struggles between some of the new government organizations such as that between the Sandinista Association of Cultural Workers and the Ministy of Culture. There was the gap of understanding between the government and the governed as they were from totally different backgrounds. The Sandanistas, although sympathetic to the impoverished people they tried to help, did not have a thorough understanding of their needs. The culture project seemed to be yet another program that was being placed over the people. There was the increased tension between the east and west coast. The geographical separation of the east coast created an essentially different country. The culture was different, the way of life different, the food different, the borrowings and adaptations different. The Somoza government had siphoned off whatever they could from the east coast in the form of lands for the Somoza family, and as many of the natural resources that it could, and introduced cattle to the region that supplanted many of the natives from their traditional slash and burn agricultural lands. To the people of the east coast of Nicaragua, the Sandinista government and its culture project was yet another interference into their lives.

Culture has two meanings here. One is the life way of a people with ancient roots with borrowings and adaptations from other cultures through its evolution. The other is a strictly western sense of what is cultured: ballet, music of the proper kind, theater, literature, libraries, museums. In one way, the Sandinistas wished to retain the old or indigenous, in another they wished to add to the indigenous in order to “benefit” him through education and therefore exposure to modern cultural events.

There seems to be a conflict between retaining the indigenous and becoming more modern. And that indigenous, to Nicaraguans includes the Spanish influence as well as ancient roots. To me indigenous would be that culture which was in place prior to Spanish occupation. But, there was so much fusion of bloodline and religion with Spanish occupation when compared to the mostly non-fusion of bloodline or religion with any other western influence or intervention. 


Whisnant, David E.
1995    Rascally Signs in Sacred Places: The Politics of Culture in Nicaragua. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press.

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