4/22/2013 2:00 PM
4/22/2013 3:30 PM
The United States waged war on Nicaragua throughout most of the 1980s. The aim was to destabilize and eventually bring down the revolutionary Sandinista government that had won control of the country in 1979. The so-called "low intensity" warfare targeted civilians and public infrastructure--schools, medical clinics, and agricultural cooperatives. Attacks were intended to frighten and terrorize civilians, especially those who supported the Sandinistas. The war inflicted profound damage on the people and economy of the country, and the impacts of the violence have been lasting. Two decades later, the population is still recovering from the physical and emotional scars it left, and the damage to the economy. Many Nicaraguans still struggle to overcome permanent injuries, and to fight for basic subsistence with little hope that their children will have adequate education, health care, or even basic nutrition. Paul Dix and Pam Fitzpatrick are U.S. citizens who saw and experienced the war firsthand while visiting and living in Nicaragua during the 1980s. They came home from Nicaragua with many memories and hundreds of photographs that Paul had taken of victims of contra violence. They also shared the conviction that those images and the stories behind them needed to be more widely known. A dozen years later, in 2002, Paul and Pam decided to return to Nicaragua. Their hope was to find some of the individuals who were the subjects of Paul’s photos from the 1980s. They wanted to gather more photos and more detailed testimonies about these people's personal experiences during the Contra War and afterwards, to share with U.S. audiences. Back to NicaraguaIt ended up taking four trips totalling seventeen months, but--amazingly--they eventually were able to locate nearly all of the one hundred or so Nicaraguans they set out to find. They taped interviews and took thousands of new photographs. Between trips to Nicaragua, they spent thousands of hours painstakingly translating the many hours of tapes.For more about this series of trips, and the effort to find and photograph people and collect their testimonies, see About the Authors and Letters from Nicaragua, and visit NicaraguaPhotoTestimony.org.Their new book, NICARAGUA: Surviving the Legacy of U.S. Policy, offers a sampling of the remarkable collection of photos and testimonies that has resulted. Paul Dix is a professional freelance photographer who has traveled the world photographing nature as well as people and the impact of wars and poverty. He lived in Nicaragua from 1985 to 1990, working on the staff of Witness for Peace. He lived and traveled in the conflict zones and used his camera to document many of the atrocities of the U.S.-sponsored Contra War, as well as the beauties of the Nicaraguan countryside and people. Livingston, Montana is his home base. Paul has worked as photographer for the U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office, and done contract work for the EPA and many other agencies and corporations. His photographs have been published in many publications, including Time Magazine, Reader's Digest, Rolling Stone, and Harrowsmith/Country Life.Pam Fitzpatrick is a professional community organizer who worked in the Sanctuary movement in the early 1980s and was director of the North Pacific Witness for Peace office in Eugene, Oregon from 1985 to 1993. She led delegations to Nicaragua, the Texas border, and more. Pam has also worked for a Legal Aid office in North Carolina, and as Director of Lane County (Oregon) WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program.Since 2002, Paul and Pam have been working together on a project to gather photographs and record testimonies documenting the long-term effects of the Contra War on ordinary Nicaraguans. From 2002 to 2010, they spent a total of seventeen months in Nicaragua over the course of four trips. They also traveled around the U.S. on extensive speaking tours between their visits to Nicaragua.The authors hope that this book will help citizens of the U.S and the world understand the reality of life in Nicaragua today, and help all of us remember and learn from the chapter of history that unfolded in Nicaragua in the 1980s. They also hope it will help inform a new chapter of U.S.-Nicaragua relations --one that is based on more just and humane military, trade and aid policies, and that leads to a more optimistic future for all Nicaraguans.