Nicaragua Must Survive: Dr Eline van Ommen on her new book

Nicaragua Must Survive: Sandinista Revolutionary Diplomacy in the Global Cold War has recently been published by University of California Press. Dr van Ommen joins us to tell us more about the book.

Why did you want to write this book?

I wanted to find out why revolutionaries from Nicaragua, a small Central American country, would be interested in building relationships with Western European activists, journalists, and politicians. I was also interested in understanding why Central America, and Nicaragua in particular, was such an important region to Western Europeans in the 1980s. What does this tell us about the Cold War, international relations, and solidarity activism?

What surprised you in the course of writing this book?

I was pleasantly surprised with how welcoming and kind the people in Nicaragua were when I approached them to find out more about their participation in the Sandinista Revolution. They generously offered to talk to me about their memories of the Sandinistas’ revolutionary diplomacy, introduced me to their friends and (former) colleagues, and shared documents with me.

What characters did you uncover in the course of your research whom you think we should know more about, and why?

We still know very little about the individuals who participated in the Sandinista Revolution, perhaps with the exception of some prominent men like Sergio Ramírez, Daniel Ortega, and Tomás Borge. It would be great if we could find out more about the women who made the revolution, such as Nora Astorga, Mónica Baltodano, and many others. Why did they join the armed struggle and what happened to them after the revolution triumphed on 19 July 1979?

What is the key thing that you want readers to remember from this book?

That change is possible, even when it seems like you are in a disadvantageous position. I would also want people to remember that culture, activism, and social movements are significant and can shape international relations. 

Nicaragua Must Survive is published by University of California Press, 2023.

Read more about Dr van Ommen’s research on her staff profile page.