Wednesday, June 30, 2010

forty-three

The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey

I bought The Jaguar Smile a few years ago after having spent a bit more than a week in Nicaragua visiting a friend. I was a little surprised to see Salman Rushdie writing about Central America, and I think at first I thought it was a collection of fiction stories. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was actually a nonfiction look at his stay in Nicaragua during the time the Sandinistas were in power in the late 80s. Apparently the book got a lot of flak for being too kind to Ortega and the new government, and he does see many of the improvements that the communists brought to the country over the previous horrible dictatorship. He did spend some time talking about censorship, but it was always in a larger context. His summary of the situation:
"The argument usually ended in the same place. Nicaragua was an imperfect state. But it was also engaged in a true revolution: in an attempt, that is, to change the structures of society in order to improve the lives of its citizens. And imprefection, even the deep flaw of censorship, did not constitute a justification for being crushed by a super-power's military and economic force."
He also spoke to the privileged vantage point he occupied as a visiting observer of the conflict:
"We parted in Madrid, and returned to our separate lives, two migrants making our way in this West stuffed with money, power and things, this North that taught us how to see from its privileged point of view. But maybe we were the lucky ones; we knew that other perspectives existed. We had seen the view from elsewhere."
All in all, I was impressed by this little time capsule that opened a small window to the history of Nicaragua.

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