Rebellion from without: Culture and politics along Nicaragua's Atlantic coast in the time of the Sandino Revolt, 1926--1934

Date of Completion

January 1998


Anthropology, Cultural|History, Latin American|Political Science, General|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies




This dissertation examines the United States Marine intervention in Nicaragua from 1926-1933 from a regional and from a cultural perspective. It concentrates on Nicaragua's Atlantic Coast, a part of the country inhabited by Miskito Indians and black Creoles, population groups that maintained important linguistic and cultural differences that distinguish them from Nicaragua's Spanish-speaking mestizo majority. Independent-minded from the time of their official "Reincorporation" into Nicaragua in 1894, the Coast folk never completely recognized the Managua's right to rule them. These separatist inclinations became a critical and complicating factor that shaped their reaction to the U.S. intervention of 1926-1933.^ Washington sent the U.S. Marines to Nicaragua in 1926 to put down a civil war in that country. Soon after their arrival, U.S. troops encountered fierce military resistance from Liberal Nicaraguan General Augusto C. Sandino. Sandino based his guerrilla movement in Nueva Segovia, a rugged region in northern Nicaragua.^ Though fighting centered in Nueva Segovia, it soon spread to other areas. The resulting conflict developed a strong political-military dimension as both Marines and Sandinistas vied for the loyalty of local populations. Nowhere was this contest for support more culturally complex than along the Atlantic Coast. There, Spanish-speaking mestizos, Miskito Indians, English-speaking black Creoles and a variety of foreigners, both businesspersons and missionaries, struggled to survive, to adapt to and even to take advantage of the small war that engulfed much of the area. This dissertation describes the different political cultures of each of these groups, shows their origins in Nicaraguan, Miskito and Caribbean history, and traces the influence of those cultures on the political choices that both Nicaraguans and Coast folk made during this critical period. ^