Excursus
Traveler, there is no road:
we make the road as we walk,
the road is made as we walk,
and looking back,
we see the path
we will never walk again.
Traveler, there is no road:
only our wake in the sea.
-Antonio Machado
Sung by Joan Manuel Serrat
Translated by Susan Norwood
I
t was during the intense decade of the Sandinista Administration in
Nicaragua that my interest in studying the intersections of gender,
ethnicity, and nation in times of transition arose. My ideas for this
book emerged from my direct participation in long and interminable meet-
ings and debates over the material and spiritual improvement of everyday
life, discussed in a pluralistic, multiethnic, multinational society.
The Sandinista electoral defeat in
1991
only rendered a process of eco-
nomic deterioration evident. From 1986 on, a brutal monetary reform had
underscored the severe fiscal crisis of the state. The progress of inflation
had to be brought to a halt. Economic historians may trace the irrevers-
ible turning point of the social revolution under way to that year, in which
retrenchment and the reallocation of state workers were to cause much dis-
tress. To political historians, true believers in the human agency of history,
the final outcome is perhaps still pending.
I began to write this book at the University of Maryland after the San-
dinista electoral defeat, away from the conflicts of the revolutionary tran-
sition taking place in that remote geographical area. The public plazas
inflamed with the tumult of the masses became but a memory. The indige-
nous voices identifying the towns where the struggle had taken place, now
printed in texts, joined the process of political reversal as they changed into
poetry and rhetoric. Behind me was the thick forest, the impenetrable land.
"Traveler, there is no road: we make the road as we walk." The words of
Antonio Machado, sung by Joan Manuel Serrat, came back to me.
As a child I was trained in the impoverished official public elementary
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