epilogue
History Matters—The Sandinistas’ Myth
of Modernity
The past is neverdead. It’s not even past.
—William Faulkner
Allpoliticalmovementscreatehistoricalmyths,usuallytodemonstrate
theyalone embody the nation’s
destiny.1
Referring to leaders of the Fr
Revolution, Edmund Burke declared, ‘‘Re-writing history is a matter
of choice, but of
necessity.’’2
In each epoch the call for change adopt
radical rhetoric of the time. In the nineteenth century, Latin American
eral elites employed a discourse of modernity, invoking democracyan
rights of man, though they had no intention of fundamentallydemocr
ing society. Similarly, in the twentieth century, Marxism was the lang
of modernity throughout the developing world, whether or not its e
nentssoughttooverthrowcapitalism.Inthecaseofthe fsln,thislang
hadparticularappeal,foritrepresentedtheantithesisoftheideologyo
U.S. government, which played a crucial role in maintaining the Som
dictatorshiptheystruggledtodefeat.3
TheSandinistasledanantidictat
and anti-imperialist struggle, yet they portrayed themselves not mere
a national liberation movement, but as
socialists.4
Not only did the Sa
nistascallthemselvesMarxists,buttheyreinterpretedthepasttojustify
definition of themselves.
The Sandinistas rewrote history to convince partisans of the fsln
Nicaraguancapitalismwasmature,andtheircountryripeforsocialistr
lution.JaimeWheelockandhisfollowersarguedthatthenineteenth-cen
coffee boom marked Nicaragua’s transition to capitalism. Thereafter
ruralsocialorderwasdividedintoahautebourgeoisieandlandlesslabo
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