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Nicaragua: Surviving the legacy of United States policy

An interview with Paul Dix

During the late 1970s and the 1980s popular movements in Central America attempted to democratize their societies politically and economically to serve the poor majorities. The US government opposed these efforts with massive violence in most Central American countries. Under President Reagan, the CIA created a terrorist group (the contras) that intimidated, attacked, and killed thousands of civilians as well as soldiers in Nicaragua in its attempts to violently overthrow the government of the progressive Sandinista party. Decades later, the poor of Central America continue to experience the effects of these wars and many US citizens still do not understand the US government’s role in trying to stop these popular movements towards democracy.


William Grigsby Vergara, a young Nicaraguan poet and painter, interviewed Paul Dix and other internationalistas from the US, and published the “Memories of a Generation of Internationalists” in the September 2012 issue of revista envio.

Here is Paul Dix in his own words:

“I’m a photographer and I live in Eugene, OR. I came to Nicaragua in 1985 as a volunteer with Witness for Peace. I did photojournalism there for five years, between 1985 and 1990, traveling in the war zones documenting contra atrocities from Jalapa to the Río San Juan, in Chontales, and other places where there were ambushes, attacks, shoot-outs… The real war heroes were the peasants. We internationalists were only witnesses, but they had to live with fear of the contras 24 hours a day.

“I was an independent photographer and my task was to make society aware with my graphic work. There was a big demand for graphic documenting of the war. I sent my photographs to the alternative media.

“I was always well received by Nicaraguans even though I came from their enemy country. This never stopped surprising me. Nicaraguans always accepted me and were completely confident that I was here to give testimony, witness, and report the reality while fighting alongside the people. I’ve traveled all over the world and I’ve never seen such warm people as in Nicaragua.

“I was about 50 years old in the eighties but it wasn’t until I came to Nicaragua that I learned what I wanted to do with my life: work on social justice and human rights issues.

“What I learned most from Nicaraguans is that, in spite of the poverty and pain they’ve experienced, they always have faith and hope in tomorrow. Their joy and optimism were contagious.

“In 2002 I came back to Nicaragua with my partner, Pamela Fitzpatrick, whom I met in 1985 through Witness for Peace. We returned to write a book: Nicaragua: Surviving the Legacy of US Policy. It took us ten years to do – from 2001 to 2011.

“We made five trips; four to photograph the peasants we met in the eighties and find out how they were twenty years later. We found most of them, photographed them, and recorded their testimonies as victims of war who survived.

“Our book is in Managua’s supermarkets and bookstores, including a bilingual edition in the Managua airport. The book has a prologue by Gioconda Belli and an endorsement by Eduardo Galeano. In October 2011, we presented it at the Central American University’s Institute of History. It was very well received. The 18 months of work with my partner was worth it. It has over 200 pages with more than 100 black-and-white photographs of Nicaraguans, then and now.”

Meet Paul Dix and Pamela Fitzpatrick

Wednesday, January 30, 7pm

Traditions Café in Olympia

Paul Dix and Pamela Fitzpatrick will present their experiences, now 25 years later, of the people of Nicaragua in photographs and testimonies from the Contra war, at 7:00 pm on Wednesday January 30 at Traditions Café, 5th and Water, in downtown Olympia.

The Thurston-Santo Tomás Sister County Association (TSTSCA) invites the public to attend for free, and will gratefully accept tax-deductible donations for its ambitious work, which includes providing partial scholarships helping people in Santo Tomás attend college.

Here is a great opportunity to learn about this important history with ongoing fallout, through Paul’s and Pamela’s first-hand experiences, powerful images, and the testimonies of Nicaraguans. This is also a great opportunity to help TSTSCA’s solidarity efforts and practical support for our sister community in Santo Tomás.

They will share proceeds from the evening’s book sales with TSTSCA for our scholarship program.

Info: Jean Eberhardt (360) 943-8642 or tstsca@gmail.comOn our book tours all around the US, we’re educating the youth. It’s very interesting, since many of those we meet were born after 1990 (when the Sandinista National Liberation Front was voted out of the presidency, until re-elected in 2006 and again in 2011) and have no idea of the Sandinistan history.In fact, the majority of them don’t even have any idea where Nicaragua is. We’re very happy to be able to rescue a bit of forgotten history.


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