Haitian Child

Haitian Child

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Gioconda Belli - Book Review


                     Anchor Books, New York. 2003

Gioconda Belli is a gifted writer and her story has value as an on-the-ground historical perspective of the Sandinista Revolution. The book is autobiographical, and her perspective will not be shared by all of her contemporaries or by other historians. Truth is often a matter of perspective.

Gioconda's wealthy and privileged family were members of the upper class in Somoza's Nicaragua. Her early life included high school in Spain, college in the United States, a debutante arrival on the Managua social scene, and an early fashionable wedding at 18 years of age into another wealthy family.

In 1971, at the age of 22 years, married with a young daughter, she was asked to join the Sandinistas by Camilo Ortega, the brother of Daniel Ortega, a leader of the revolution, who was then in jail. She served as a Sandinista revolutionary in a variety of important capacities, was obliged to live in exile in Mexico and Costa Rica, and returned in July 1979 to share in the victory celebrations after Somoza fled and the National Guard dispersed.

Her book includes not only descriptions of her revolutionary activities, but also her romantic affairs with Sandinista compadres, and the complex rationalizations she needed to explain her marital infidelities and the prolonged absences from her young children.
Gioconda placed herself and the revolution first, at the expense of her family and her children. At first I was troubled by her decisions to separate from her young children, but then I realized that over the centuries men have never hesitated to make this choice. Why should she be judged for temporarily relinquishing her role as a mother?

Towards the end of the revolution, there were three major factions in the FSLN. The Tercerista Tendency faction led by Daniel and Humberto Ortega eventually assumed control of the revolution. Gioconda's sense of justice and her various amorous relationships with members of the other factions, resulted in her change in support to a non-Ortega faction. Her story has a sour grapes quality about the success of the Ortega brothers. She provides examples of the early decisions by the Ortega brothers to sacrifice principle for the expediency of success. Today, living in California, she is an outspoken critic of the current Ortega government. She maintains that Daniel Ortega was willing to sacrifice principles during the revolution and that he continues to do so today as President of Nicaragua.

Her autobiography offered personality to the day-to-day historical events of the revolution, and her excellent prose made for great reading.





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