February 12, 2009 in Washington Voices

Professors recount trip to Nicaragua

Jeslyn Lemke Correspondent
 

A panel of Eastern Washington University and Washington State University professors spoke of revolution and sacrifice to an audience of both schools’ students last Thurday.

The four panelists recounted their trip to Nicaragua last summer, where they spent a month interviewing revolutionaries from the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which overthrew Nicaragua’s dictatorship in the 1970s.

Martin Garcia from EWU, and Martha Cottam, Bruno Baltodano and Joe Huseby from WSU visited the country on grants from WSU and EWU. After taking almost 25 hours of interviews, the team hopes to one day publish their data, possibly using the results to help in similar political situations, such as Afghanistan or Darfur.

About 100 EWU and WSU students and faculty were there.

The professors’ stories recounted profiles of the revolutionaries they met.

The team met with both high-ranking officials and peasants.

They had a chance to interview Humberto Ortega, one of the highest ranking revolutionaries in the Sandinista National Liberation Front.

He showed up in an unmarked car, Baltodano said, and had an armed guard with him. He wouldn’t tell the hotel clerk who he was and at one point, the team caught a glimpse of a machine gun sitting in the car.

Ortega was helpful in his answers and even agreed to pose in photograph with the professors, Baltodano said.

Several peasants in the revolution had stories of the violence they endured, all for freedom for their country, Garcia said. Garcia pointed out that few of these peasants got psychological help after the war, meaning a whole generation still lives with these traumas.

Garcia, who teaches international relations at EWU, said his perspective on foreign relations was altered a bit after hearing violent stories like this.

“It’s easy for us to look at books. But when you actually go there and look at the actual impact on people, you come out of this type of work with a different perspective,” Garcia said.

The audience asked questions after the presentation. One person wanted to know if the group felt safe while they were there. They felt pretty secure there, the panel responded. In fact, they had been surprised their sources were so open about the fighting, possibly because the war ended so long ago.

Contact correspondent Jeslyn Lemke at jlemke12@yahoo.com.

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