Why the Nicaraguan Revolution Matters Today | Under the Shadow, Ep. 10, Part I

The 1979 Sandinista victory over the Somoza dictatorship sparked hope across Central America and beyond. Nicaragua quickly became ground zero of a violent U.S.-backed counterrevolutionary war.

May 15, 2024

Sandinista campaign materials, 1984. (Kevin Gerien / NACLA archives)


Read the transcript. 

The 1979 Nicaraguan revolution that overthrew a brutal U.S.-backed dictator ushered in a wave of hope in the Central American country. The new Sandinista government launched literacy and healthcare campaigns, carried out land reform, and promised to improve the lives of all. 

But the United States, under President Ronald Reagan, feared the dominos would fall across Central America, and they unleashed assault on the country: paramilitary war, CIA attacks, economic blockade, and much more.

In this episode, host Michael Fox walks back into the 1980s, to the overthrow of dictator Anastasio Somoza and the beginning of both the Sandinista government and the U.S. response to it. 

This is Part 1 of Episode 10. 

People gather in Nicaragua's Plaza of the Revolution on International Workers' Day, May 1, 1980. (NACLA archives / Courtesy of Barricada)

Sandinista soldiers dance with members of a cultural workers' association, after a battle in Los Planes, circa 1982/1983. (Margaret Randall / NACLA archives)

Under the Shadow is an investigative narrative podcast series that walks back in time, telling the story of the past by visiting momentous places in the present. 

In each episode, host Michael Fox takes us to a location where something historic happened — a landmark of revolutionary struggle or foreign intervention. Today, it might look like a random street corner, a church, a mall, a monument, or a museum. But every place he takes us was once the site of history-making events that shook countries, impacted lives, and left deep marks on the world.

Hosted by Latin America-based journalist Michael Fox.

This podcast is produced in partnership between The Real News Network and NACLA.

Alex Aviña
William Robinson
Marvin Ortega Rodriguez
Eline Van Ommen
Peter Kornbluh

Edited by Heather Gies.
Sound design by Gustavo Türck.
Theme music by Monte Perdido and Michael Fox 
Other music from Blue Dot Sessions.

Follow and support journalist Michael Fox or Under the Shadow at https://www.patreon.com/mfoxYou can also see pictures and listen to full clips of Michael Fox’s music for this episode.

For declassified documents on the U.S. Contra war on Nicaragua and the Iran Contra affair, you can visit Peter Kornbluh's National Security Archives here and here.

Eline van Ommen’s book, Nicaragua Must Survive: Sandinista Revolutionary Diplomacy in the Global Cold War (University of California Press, 2023), is available here

For the 2007 documentary American Sandinista, you can visit the website of director Jason Blalock

Here are links to the 1980 documentaries about Nicaragua's literacy campaign that I mention in this episode: La Salida and La Llegada.

Photos from the NACLA archives were identified, researched, and scanned by Pace University students Ana Armstrong, Mya Galan, Leslie Madera, Arwen Saenz, and Valeria Salazar, who have conducted research in the NACLA archives with the support of the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives and the Project Pericles Foundation.

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