This book reveals how the peasant Lopez family becomes politicized. In many respects, no Nicaraguan has a choice, since the politics of Nicaragua make people take sides. Thus, the members of the Lopez family have no choice but to participate in the politics of the country. The Sandinista revolution polarizes the family, as each member has a different view of what Somoza represented and what the Sandinistas represented.
It is not difficult to understand why the Lopez family was so politicized. The history of the country makes it necessary for every Nicaraguan to know what is going on in the country. Nicaragua is, after all, the largest of the Central American republics.
U.S. imperialism has done much harm to this Central American country, especially through the reality of the Contra war, which the U.S. supported and conducted throughout the 1980s. To be sure, the Contra war left an indelible mark on the Nicaraguan personality. The history of Nicaragua is a story about American support of authoritarianism and of civil war. Nicaraguans know what the U.S. was doing.
As author Benjamin Keen has noted, "the United States had long avowed that it would not allow a successful socialist, antiimperialist revolution in its Caribbean backyard, a part of the world that for a century had been a secure U.S. preserve." (Keen, p.403) The violence that has been exported from the United States in this effort has had a drastic impact on the Nicaraguan people. Thus, it has also obviously affected the Lopez family.
Thanks to God and the Revolution begins with accounts of the late Somoza years and goes through the 1979 revolution. It ends its tale in 1987. This was three years before the Sandinistas finally lost their power. The Lopez family consists of elderly Dona Maria Lopez, who clearly hopes to avoid politics. She is a simple woman and tries not to get involved in the politics of the country. Nonetheless, she loves her children very much and this translates into a respect for their views and strong feelings about the politics of the country. She feels their passion and she therefore remains sympathetic to what her children experience and how they see the world.
It is interesting that Dona Maria Lopez respects the passion of her children, since passion is one thing all Nicaraguans have. What U.S. historian Ralph Woodward has written about Central Americans might have very well been written for the Nicaraguans.
Fatalism, he wrote, may well be a part of their national mentality, tempering their attitudes toward the future. Death and tragedy always seem close in Central America. The primitive states of communication, transportation, and production, and the insecurity of human life, have been the major determinants in the region's history…" (Goodwin, p.39)
United States imperialism has not, to say the least, helped in this matter. This is why Lopez has the right instinct that her children are political for a reason. She has passion as well, but through her children. Overall, she remains apolitical.
Nicaragua was ruled by members of the powerful Somoza family from 1937 until 1979, with full American backing and support. The Somoza dictatorship brutalized the Nicaraguan people and socially constructed a system in which the minority of the people owned a majority of the nation's wealth. In July 1979, a revolution led by the Sandinista front of National Liberation toppled the Somoza dynasty. (Keen, p.405) The new leaders set the stage for social and economic changes that were revolutionary for Latin America. The Americans were severely troubled by this development. But many Nicaraguans understood what was going on.
One of these Nicaraguans who saw the U.S. efforts to exploit Nicaragua was Dona Maria Lopez's daughter Leticia. She perceives what has been wrong with the American policy toward Nicaragua, just as she sees that the Sandinistas have no choice but to do what they do to survive. Thus, Leticia is a Sandinista collaborator. She does everything she can to support the Sandinista government. She also is very articulate, and she argues vehemently for the survival of the revolution.
The Reagan State Department claimed that the Sandinista government in Nicaragua was funnelling Soviet and Cuban arms to the Salvadoran rebels. The administration’s response was to mobilize guerrilla bands of disgruntled Nicaraguans, soon called "Contras". (Guillermoprieto, p.38) Along with outcast Miskito Indians and disillusioned democratic elements in Nicaragua, the CIA embraced cadres of former National Guardsmen and other supporters of Somoza. United States and Honduras forces engaged in joining military ventures just over the Nicaraguan border. The adminstration's hidden agenda, it soon became clear, was not only to interdict arms for El Salvador, but to overthrow the Sandinistas. Offer dissertation writing help at PhDify.com
Other members of the Lopez family perceive all of these politics. Leticia's half-sister and half-brother, Marta and Omar, are active in the revolution. They are employed in Sandinista agencies. There begins to be great tragedy in the story, as the family members slowly but surely begin to realize the weakness and the fragile nature of the revolutionary culture. They love the revolution, but they see that it is falling apart.
All in all, Thanks to God and the Revolution: the Oral History of a Nicaraguan family is a very moving and sad book. It shows how the Americans make life impossible for the Nicaraguan people. That is why the critics of Reagan's anti-Sandinista policy are right. They have argued that American involvement ensured that the Marxist forces in Central America would emerge as victorious representatives of local nationalism against American imperialism. They were ultimately right: by opposing the desire for social justice, the Americans alienated the Sandinista regime.
But overall, the Sandinista culture could not withstand the contra war and the American pressure. The politics divided every family, including the Lopez family. Everyone in this book felt the effects of war, and also began to understand that the U.S. will not allow self-determination for peoples.
- Keen, Benjamin (ed.) Latin American Civilization. History and Society, 1492 to the Present (Bovido Westview Press, 1991) in Yellow Course Reader.
- Goodwin, Paul. Latin America; Fifth Edition (Guilford, Connecticut, 1992), p.39.
- Guillermoprieto, Alma. The Heart That Bleeds; Latin America Now (New York, Vintage, 1994)
- Hart, Dianne. Thanks God and the Revolution: the Oral History of a Nicaraguan Family (New York: Cahners Publishing Co., 1990). 7 The Role and Consequence of U.S. Intervention in Nicaragua 8