Nicaragua is a country of young people. With sixty percent of the population under the age of 35, this is a condition that can present itself as either an opportunity or a barrier to the civic mobilization that the country needs to curb the indecencies of the traditional powers.
If the youth end up erasing the memory of history then they will confirm the thoughts of Edmundo Desnoes, who described underdevelopment as the inability to associate ideas and accumulate experiences. Similarly, they can validate the notion of the historian Thomas Carlyle, who reminded us that people who forget their history are condemned to repeat it.
However, the very existence of a vital majority of the population, with dreams free of old dogmas and loyalties, can open windows of hope in a country that is simultaneously passionate about its legacy and disenchanted with its actions. They lack only those “attractive lunatics” who press for their demands outside the gray and perverse schemes of realpolitik and seduce a youth population sidetracked by the promises — and frustrations — of consumerism, nihilism and sterilized rebelliousness.
I had the opportunity to share the arena one Sunday afternoon with several restless spirits, also in Matalgalpa, on the radio program “Foreign Cooperation: Option or Imposition?” broadcast on Stereo Kiss. Interacting with the listeners, borrowing from the hand of committed reflection while eased by humor, together we explained the mercantile and authoritarian impressions that colonize associative settings and international cooperation, the modes and expert elitisms that distance communities from sustainable self-management, and the false promises of international organizations. These were all significant issues in “nica” reality, but far from the agendas and customs of the traditional settings for youth interaction.
The determination of these youth was not exhausted in the tense minutes in the radio booth. For two years they have been part of the “Young Agents of Change” collective, which creates communication spaces based on dialogue and respect for human diversity, with a lay and human rights focus.
Without being incorporated as an NGO or a foundation, and seeking protection under the right to free association inscribed in the Nicaraguan constitution, these young agents have allied themselves around autonomy and self-management. Sustained by personal resources and through alliances with other communities and movements, they have promoted important activities such as the realization in Matagalpa of the first teach-in on sexual diversity as a human right.
The public activity made visible the human faces of sexual diversity (gays, lesbians, transsexuals, inter-sexuals and bisexuals) and offered pertinent information on advances in judicial matters with respect to the rights to sexual diversity as well as the new crime of discrimination for reasons of sexual identification in the work environment.
With the support of groups of women from the Movimiento Comunal, civil associations, families, relatives and friends of the participants, the day allowed the concerns, dreams and ideas of sexual diversity to be presented through various artistic expressions. This was a democratic exercise in which the local community requested information and became more aware of the issue as they acquired the collective understanding that ignorance is a source of discrimination.
I shared other exceptional moments in Managua with the youth of the Movement for the Rescue of Sandinism. The members were visibly devoted to strengthening the organization, education and political activism “from below and to the left” – elements their homeland needs. With a critical sense they recognized the enormous challenges facing them to reconstruct their culture as well as a Sandinista and socialist political leadership that is a real and emancipatory alternative.
One of those comrades, a young and invaluable sociologist and lawyer, joined in the interdisciplinary effort that I am coordinating along with other “amphibian” co-workers in the Anti-capitalism and Emerging Societies Working Group of the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO). His participation will contribute to the understanding and the mutual accompaniment of struggle and reflections in all corners of Our America.
This working group, consisting of young “amphibians” — all academics with experience in activism and under 35 years of age (jokingly baptized as “Sub-40” since it is the youngest of similar CLACSO collectives) — we chose to carry out our first working meeting in Managua from October 3-6, 2010. We did it considering the importance of supporting academic research and exchanges in less developed countries of the region. At the same time it gave us the opportunity to become familiar with and to accompany the experiences of social movements in the land of Sandino.
The realization of our effort was only possible thanks to support from “nica” comrades with the Popol Na Foundation, which guaranteed lodging; CIELAC, which authorized meeting space and took care of the logistics for the sessions; and several friends of the social movement, who contributed their material and human resources to the activity.
With participants from Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico and Nicaragua, a critical assessment was made in the encounter of the paradigms and concepts (anti-capitalism, emerging societies, autonomy, self-management, etc.) that supported our theoretical-political approach. We discussed the current conjuncture of social struggle against neoliberal governments, the difficulties of preserving autonomy in relation to so-called progressive governments, as well as strategies of repression, demobilization and co-option carried out by parties and governments of various ideological leanings against popular autonomy.
We also shared emotional moments with representatives of the student body, communities and grass roots movements, as well as with leaders and political analysts from a diverse ideological spectrum. Everyone enriched the vision of the group’s members about Nicaraguan reality.
At the end, we came up with a statement (titled the Managua Charter) in which we took positions on several recent events of the region that were directly related to self-organizational processes and the emancipatory search that compels our thought and work.
All of this makes me face the year hopeful that, above all, youth is surely a state of the soul more than anything; it is alive when it refuses to be oxidized, when it avoids taking the easy way out by convincing itself that the world in which we live is so screwed up that is impossible to change it.