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Augusto Sandino

Some called him an outlaw and others a hero, but whatever his label, Augusto Nicolás Calderón Sandino was indisputably a pivotal figure in Nicaraguan history.

Born May 18, 1895, the son of a wealthy Sandino and a family servant, Augusto Sandio was forced to flee the country after he shot a man at age 26. Eventually landing in Mexico, Sandio studied that country’s revolution and became involved with various spiritual groups, all while working the oil fields.

Sandino came back to Nicaragua just in time for a war between Liberal soldiers on the Caribbean coast, who supported the exiled vice-president Juan Bautista Sacasa, and the US-backed, Conservative President Adolfo Díaz (installed after a coup). Sandino, who had found a job in a gold mine, rallied his fellow miners and led an attack on a Conservative garrison in El Jácaro. (He would later rename the location Ciudad Sandino.)

Although his forces were defeated, Liberal commanders eventually gave him their nod of approval. Sandino returned to the Segovia mountains to lead attacks on government troops and his successes included the rescue of a column of Liberal soldiers as they advanced on Managua.

In 1927, the United States government pressured both the Liberal and Conservative sides to sign the Espino Negro accord. Under the agreement, all parties would disarm, Díaz would finish his term and the Nicaraguan government would establish the Guardia Nacional (Nacional Guard). Although a battalion of US Marines had been sent in to enforce the agreement (which had been signed by such Liberal commanders as General José María Moncada), Sandino called the accord a betrayal of the fatherland and continued to fight.

Sandino named his group "The Army in Defense of the National Sovereignty of Nicaragua" and adopted the image of a peasant beheading a Marine. He also started calling himself Augusto “Cesar” Sandino. Employing guerilla tactics, Sandino led his forces in raids around Matagalpa, Jinotega and the eastern coast.

In 1928, Sandino demanded that President DĂ­az resign, US troops withdraw and that Latin American countries supervise a new round of elections. He also demanded that the US give up long-held rights to a prospective Nicaraguan Canal (which were part of the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty) and that his men be given land where they could settle. As his politics evolved, Sandino also called for all Latin American countries to unite in order to resist US imperialism.

When General Moncada won national elections, Sandino declared the appointment unconstitutional and that his peasant army was the only legitimate body. He would eventually pronounce his troops an instrument of divine punishment against the US and, as his paranoia grew and outside aid dwindled, that he was God on earth and that his wife was the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary.

In 1931, an earthquake destroyed the center of Managua and killed over 2,000 people. Sandino, taking the earthquake as a sign in his favor, continued to lead his army on raids in the south and west.

Following Nicaraguan presidential elections in 1932, the US Marines began to pull out of Nicaragua. In 1933, the new president, Juan Bautista Sacasa, granted Sandino’s soldiers amnesty and allowed them to settle on 36,000-square kilometers in the Rio Coco basin. In return, Sandino pledged his loyalty to the president and had his forces surrender their weapons, but was allowed to retain a small force of 100 armed men.

The following year, under commander Anastasio Somoza García, the National Guard ambushed Sandino, executed him in Managua and massacred those living in the Sandinista cooperatives. Somoza would declare himself president two years later and rule Nicaragua as a dictator for the next forty years. His son would be overthrown by the revolutionary Sandinista National Liberation Front, lead by Carlos Fonseca, Tomás Borge and, later, Daniel Ortega.

You can visit Augusto C. Sandino's childhood home in the town of Catarina on the edge of Laguna de Apoyo. Murials of the revoluntionary can be found throughout Nicaragua.

While you're traveling in Nicaragua, be judicious in your choice of clothing. Wearing bright red and black is still considered a sign of allegiance with the Sandinista movement and FSLN political party.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Nicaragua : José Daniel Ortega Saavedra, Aleman and Ortega: "The Pact", Pacific South West History, Granada and Around History, The History of the Corn Islands, History, The History of Nicaragua, Pirates in Nicaragua, Islas Solentiname History and Río San Juan History.

05 Feb 2009

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