Augusto Csar Sandino
Sandino was born May 18, 1895 in Niquinomo. He was born out of wedlock, the son of wealthy landowner Gregorio Sandino and Margarita Caldern, a servant with the Sandino family. He lived with his mother until the age of nine, when he moved into the home of his father.
In July 1912 when he was 17, he witnessed the first intervention of US troops in Nicaragua in the face of an uprising against President Adolfo Daz, regarded by many as a US puppet. Liberal general Benjamn Zeledn died on October 4 of that year defending the hills of El Coyotepe y La Barranca, situated stategically at the entrance of the city of Masaya. The teenage Sandino remained with the impression of the patriot's face, whose body was carried on an cart by the United States Marine Corps to be buried in Catarina.
In 1921, after attempting to murder Dagoberto Rivas, the son of a prominent conservative townsman who had made disparaging comments about his mother, he fled to Honduras, Guatemala, and eventually Mexico, where he found work at a Standard Oil refinery near the port of Tampico. At the time, the military phase of the Mexican Revolution was ending, and a new 'institutional revolutionary' regime consolidating itself, pressured by a wide array of popular movements to carry out the radical provisions of the 1917 Constitution. Sandino was involved with the Seventh-day Adventists, spiritist gurus, and anti-imperialist, anarchist, and communist revolutionaries, embracing the anti-clericalism of Mexico's revolution and the ideology of indigenismo, glorifying the indigenous heritage of Latin America. Sandino returned to Nicaragua in 1926 after the statute of limitations on his charges expired, finding work as a clerk at the San Albino gold mine, located in the Segovias mountains near the border with Honduras.
Shortly after his return, the Constitutionalist War began when Liberal soldiers in the Caribbean port of Puerto Cabezas revolted against Conservative President Adolfo Daz, who had recently been installed under U.S. pressure following a coup. The leader of this revolt, General Jos Mara Moncada, declared that he supported the claim of exiled Liberal vice-president Juan Bautista Sacasa, who arrived in Puerto Cabezas in December, declaring himself president of a 'constitutional' government, which was recognized by Mexico. Assembling a makeshift army composed largely of gold miners, Sandino led a failed attack on the Conservative garrison nearest to the San Albino mine. Afterwards, he travelled to Puerto Cabezas to meet with Moncada. The unknown Sandino's request for weapons and a military commission were denied; however, after capturing some rifles from fleeing Conservative soldiers, the other Liberal commanders agreed to grant him a commission.
By 1927, he was back in the Segovias, inciting many of the local peasants to join his army and staging increasingly successful attacks on government troops. In April, Sandino's forces played a vital role in assisting the principal Liberal Army column, which was advancing on Managua. Having received arms and funding from Mexico, the Liberal army of General Moncada seemed on the verge of seizing the capital. However, the United States, under the threat of military intervention, forced the Liberal generals to agree to a cease-fire. On May 4, representatives from the two warring parties signed the Espino Negro accord, negotiated by Henry Stimson, who was appointed by U.S. President Calvin Coolidge as a special envoy to Nicaragua. Under the terms of the accord, both sides agreed to disarm, Daz would be allowed to finish his term, and a new national army would be established, the Guardia Nacional (National Guard), with U.S. soldiers remaining in the country to supervise the upcoming Presidential election of November 1928. Afterwards, a battalion of U.S. Marines under the command of General Logan Feland arrived to enforce the agreement.
After the signing of the Espino Negro accord, Sandino refused to order his followers to surrender their weapons and returned to the Segovias, during this period marrying a young telegraphist, Blanca Arauz, of the village of San Rafael del Norte. At the beginning of July, he issued a manifesto condemning the betrayal of the Liberal revolution by the "vendepatria" (country-seller) Moncada and declared war on the United States, whom he described as the 'Colossus of the North' and 'the enemy of our race.' Later that month, about 800 of Sandino's followers attacked a patrol of Marines and Nicaraguan Guardia Nacional that was sent to apprehend him in the village of Ocotal. Armed primarily with machetes and 19th-century rifles, they attempted to besiege the Marines, but were easily repulsed with the help of one of the first dive bombing attacks in history, conducted by five Marine de Havilland biplanes. The Marine commander estimated than 300 of Sandino's men died (the actual number was about 60), while the Marines suffered only one dead and one wounded, and the Guardia three dead and four captured. After these heavy losses, Sandino learned from his mistake and concentrated on ambushes and sudden raids rather than open attacks.
As his successes grew, he transformed his own name to Augusto Csar Sandino and renamed his band of followers "The Army in Defense of the National Sovereignty of Nicaragua". Efforts by the Marines to kill or capture Sandino over the summer proved to be a failure, due to the Sandinistas' superior knowledge of the local terrain, superior intelligence capabilities, and skill at camouflaging their movements. In November 1927, U.S. aircraft succeeded in locating El Chipote, Sandino's remote mountain headquarters east of San Albino Mine. However, by the time the Marines succeeded in reaching it, they found it abandoned and guarded by straw-dummies, Sandino and his followers having long since escaped.
Evading detection, Sandino surprised the Marines by moving southward, raiding the coffee plantations of Matagalpa and Jinotega. In February 1928, Carlton Beals interviewed Sandino in the town of San Rafael del Norte. The interview, which was published in The Nation, was the only one Sandino ever gave to a North American journalist. Afterwards, Sandino and his forces moved eastward towards the Mosquito Coast. In April, the Sandinistas destroyed the equipment of the Bonanza and La Luz gold mines, the two largest mines in the country, both of which were owned by U.S. investors. With aerial support, the Marines attempted to advance several riverine patrols from the east coast of Nicaragua up the Ro Coco during the height of the rainy season, frequently having to rely on native dugout canoes. While these patrols succeeded in limiting the movement of Sandino's forces and securing tenuous control over the principal river in northern Nicaragua, they failed to locate Sandino or lead to a decisive victory.
Sandino's emblem showed a U.S. Marine about to be beheaded. Despite great effort, the U.S. military never was able to catch or kill him, although he felt it necessary at one point to stage a fake funeral for himself, as an American plane observed from above.
Having addressed his declaration of war against the United States to the whole of the 'Indo-Hispanic race', Sandino saw his struggle in racial terms, as the defense not only of Nicaragua but of the whole of Latin America. At the beginning of his rebellion, Sandino appointed a Honduran poet, journalist and diplomat named Froyl¡n Turcios as his official foreign representative. Residing in Tegucigalpa, Turcios was the recipient and disseminator of Sandino's communiques, manifestos and reports, as well as his connection to sympathizers who provided him with arms and volunteers. Working with a number of prominent Nicaraguan exiles, Turcios sought to build support for his struggle in the other Central American nations and Mexico, which had backed the Liberals during the Constitutionalist War. In the latter country, his principal representative was a Nicaraguan exile named Pedro Zepeda, who had previously served as the liaison between Sacasa and the Mexican government.
Sandino's principal demands were the resignation of President Daz, withdrawal of U.S. troops, new elections supervised by Latin American countries, and the abrogation of the Bryan-Chamorro Treaty, which gave the U.S. exclusive rights to build a canal across Nicaragua. The elections which were held under the supervision of the U.S. military in October 1928, which led to the election of Jos Mara Moncada, proved a major setback for Sandino's claim to be acting in defense of the Liberal revolution. Prior to the election, he attempted to organize a junta with three other marginal factions, which would be headed by Zepeda. In the pact establishing the Junta, Sandino had himself declared Generalissimo and uncontested military authority of the republic. Following the election, Sandino ruled out negotiations with his former rival, Sandino declared the elections unconstitutional. In an attempt to outmaneuver Moncada, he expanded his demands to include the restoration of the United Provinces of Central America, which would remain a central component of his political program. In a letter he wrote to Argentine President Hiplito Irigoyen in March 1929 entitled 'Plan for Realizing Bolvar's Dream,' Sandino outlined an even more ambitious political project. He proposed a conference in Buenos Aires of all the Latin American nations to work towards their political unification into an entity he called the 'Indo-Latin American Continental and Antillean Federation,' in order to resist further U.S. domination and guarantee that the future Nicaraguan Canal would remain under Latin American control.
As Sandino's success grew, he began to receive symbolic gestures of support from the Soviet Union and the Comintern. The Pan-American Anti-Imperialist League, which was supervised by the South American Bureau of the Comintern, issued a number of statements applauding support of Sandino. The U.S. branch of the Anti-Imperialist League played a central role in opposing the war in the United States itself. Sandino's half-brother Socrats, who lived in New York, was featured as a speaker at a number of rallies against U.S. involvement in Nicaragua organized by the League and the U.S. Communist Party. The Sixth World Congress of the Comintern, meeting in Moscow in the summer of 1928, issued a statement 'expressing solidarity with the workers and peasants of Nicaragua and the heroic army of national emancipation of General Sandino.' In China, a division of the Kuomingtang army that seized Beijing in 1928 was named the Sandino brigade. The following June, Sandino appointed a representative to the Second Congress of the World Anti-Imperialist League in Frankfurt, which was attended by Jawaharlal Nehru and Madame Sun Yat-sen.
Sandino's relations with Turcios soured, as Turcios disliked the Junta proposal and Sandino criticized him for siding with Honduras in a border dispute with Guatemala, which Sandino saw as a distraction from the goal of Central American unification. Conflict between the two men led Turcios to resign in January 1929, largely cutting off the flow of arms to Sandino's forces and leaving them increasingly isolated from potential supporters outside Nicaragua. In an effort to secure military and financial support, he wrote a number of letters appealing to various Latin American leaders. Sandino looked to revolutionary Mexico, but the country's revolution had taken an anti-communist turn under de facto ruler Plutarco Elas Calles. After failing to negotiate his surrender in exchange for a withdrawal of U.S. troops, Mexican President Emilio Portes offered Sandino asylum, and he left Nicaragua in June 1929. In the climate of the Maximato, the radicalism of Sandino received a hostile reception. He was confined by the Mexican government to the city of Mrida in order to appease the United States, remaining there for over a year, and although he managed to travel to Mexico City and meet with Portes Gil, his request for support was quickly rebuffed. The Mexican Communist Party offered to pay for Sandino to travel to Europe, but the offer was withdrawn after he refused to issue a statement condemning the Mexican government. In April 1930, as Sandino's relations with the Communists grew increasingly hostile, they leaked information suggesting that Sandino was critical of Portes Gil's government, causing him to flee the country and return to Nicaragua.
During his period in Mexico, he had become a member of an organization the Magnetic-Spiritualist School of the Universal Commune (EMECU). Founded in Buenos Aires in 1911 by a Basque electrician named Joaqun Trincado, the EMECU blended the political ideals of anarchism with a cosmology which was an idiosyncratic synthesis of Zoroastrianism, Kabbalah and Spiritism. Rejecting both capitalism and Bolshevism, Trincado's own brand of communism centered a 'spiritism of Light and Truth' that would supersede all existing religions in the final stage of human history. This stage, which would arise from the political conflicts of the twentieth century, would witness the establishment of the 'universal commune', in which private property and the state would be abolished, the hatred caused by false religions would disappear and all of humanity would be part of one race (Hispanic) and speak one language (Spanish). Sandino's only communication with Trincado was through a series of letters, but after his return, his manifestos and his personal affiliations were increasingly shaped by his attempt to apply the ideals of the EMECU. He named Tricado one of his official representatives and replaced the old seal of a campesino beheading a U.S. Marine with the symbol of EMECU. His distrust of his former Communist associates led him to break off relations with one of his most trusted lieutenants, a Salvadoran named Farabundo Mart, accusing Mart of spying on him for the Communists. In February 1931, Sandino issued his 'Manifesto of Light and Truth,' which reflected a new millenarian tone in his beliefs. The manifesto proclaimed the coming of the Last Judgement, which will witness "the destruction of injustice on the earth and the reign of the Spirit of Light and Truth, that is, Love." Nicaragua had been chosen to play a central role in this struggle, and his army was an instrument of divine justice. "The honor has fallen to us, brothers, that in Nicaragua we have been chosen by Divine Justice to begin the prosecution of injustice on earth."
Even though Sandino had been unable to secure any outside aid for his forces, the Great Depression made overseas military expeditions too costly for the United States. In January 1931, Henry Stimson, who was now Secretary of State, announced that all U.S. soldiers in Nicaragua would be withdrawn following the 1932 election. Responsibility for dealing with Sandino's forces was handed over to the newly-created Nicaraguan National Guard (Guardia Nacional), which would continue to be commanded by U.S. officers. That May, an earthquake destroyed Managua, killing over 2,000 people. Over the summer of 1931, Sandinista bands were active in every department north of Managua, conducting raids into the southern and western parts of the country, the departments of Estel, Len and Chontales. Although they managed to briefly occupy several towns along the nation's principal railroad, linking Managua to the Pacific coastal port of Corinto, the Sandinista army did not try to capture any of the nation's urban centers, although it did succeed in briefly occupying some smaller cities like Chinandega.
In accordance with the Good Neighbor Policy, the last United States Marines left Nicaragua in January 1933, following the inauguration of Juan Bautista Sacasa as the country's president. 130 Marines were killed in their tour of duty to Nicaragua. Sandino met with Sacasa in Managua the following February, during which he pledged his loyalty to the President and agreed to order his forces to surrender their weapons. In exchange, Sacasa granted the soldiers in Sandino's army amnesty and control over a large portion of the department of Jinotega, in which they were allowed to settle with their families and given funds to establish communal farms. During these talks, Sandino also succeeded in convincing Sacasa to allow him to retain a small auxiliary force and settled with his supporters in the country's northern departments.
Sandino was ambushed and betrayed along with his father and the poet Sofonas Salvatierra (who was Sacasa's Minister of Agriculture) by Somoza's order, when he returned from new rounds of the talks with Sacasa, and murdered in Managua on 21 February 1934 by the National Guard under the command of Anastasio Somoza Garca. The following day, soldiers from the National Guard descended on the Sandinista cooperatives and massacred their inhabitants. Two years later, Somoza Garca forced Sacasa to resign and declared himself President, establishing a dynasty which would dominate Nicaragua for the next four decades.
Sandino became a hero to many leftists in Nicaragua and much of Latin America as a Robin Hood figure who opposed domination from wealthy elites and foreigners, such as the United States. His dislike of the American presence was tempered by the love he said he felt towards Americans in the same situation as himself. His picture and silhouette complete with the oversized cowboy hat became recognized symbols of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, originally founded in 1961 by Carlos Fonseca and Tom¡s Borge, among others, and later led by Daniel Ortega. He was also idolized by leftists everywhere such as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. His brand of warfare was used by Castro, FARC in Colombia, and the Sandinistas as well as by the FMLN in El Salvador.
In 1979, Somoza's son, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, was overthrown by the Sandinistas, political descendants of Sandino. Managua International Airport was named "Augusto C. Sandino International Airport" after him during the 1980s and again renamed this in 2007 by President Daniel Ortega after former president Arnoldo Alem¡n renamed it Managua International Airport in 2001.
The Nicaraguan portrait artist Rger Prez de la Rocha has created many portraits of Sandino – whose image was banned by the Somoza dictatorship – and his associates, adding to the country's iconography. .
Come on you pack of drug fiends, come on and murder us on our own land. I am waiting for you on my feet at the head of my patriotic soldiers, and I don't care how many of you there are. You should know that when this happens, the destruction of your mighty power will make the Capitol shake in Washington, and your blood will redden the white dome that crowns the famous White House where you plot your crimes.
(quoted in Zimmermann)
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