Faculty Focus: Nicaraguan Narrative
As the U.S. prepares for the upcoming election, Nicaragua is readying for their own trip to the polls, with incumbent Daniel Ortega the assumed victor. This will be his third consecutive term as president, and his fourth total as president of Nicaragua. In 2014, Nicaragua’s legislature passed more than 90 constitutional reforms including one abolishing term limits, one of many new topics addressed in Nicaragua: Emerging from the Shadow of the Eagle.
This sixth edition of Nicaragua also addresses myriad social and political changes the country has undergone since the book’s last edition in 2011, such as the Ortega administration’s record on gender equality, and the controversial interoceanic canal project. The changes to the book though, are not all socio-political, as the text needed some major revision for ease of reading and use as a teaching tool.
“As the editions passed, it made more sense to restructure the book from a thematic narrative into a chronological one about Nicaragua’s development, which meant blending lots of bits from different chapters together. My editor called it ‘Frankensteining’ the text,” Wade says. “So the first challenge wasn’t actually figuring out what would go in the new edition; the first challenge was figuring out how to restructure the book so it would be not only easier for students to read, but easier for instructors to use.”
Another obstacle Wade faced was how to give Nicaragua a more inclusive feel throughout, and not just as an occasional sidebar. “One of the challenges of the book was to go back and make it more inclusive and representative of all of Nicaraguan society. That meant paying additional attention to Indigenous issues, which often get overlooked in Nicaragua, and to women as well,” Wade says. “The goal was to integrate women into the various stages of Nicaraguan history rather than just saying ‘this is how many women were in parliament.’”
Wade’s research on the book began in 2014. She spent a lot of time in Nicaragua speaking with government officials as well as listening to the stories of the Nicaraguan people and how their reality reflected the current political dynamic there. “To me, it’s always amazing that people will welcome you into their homes or communities and talk about their projects and decision-making, and the changes that they’ve seen,” Wade says. “It is an honor to hear about people’s concerns - what isn’t going well, what they’re worried about, their various hopes and so forth and so on. And the challenge is to not allow anecdotes to tell the story for you, because I’m a political scientist, but to think about what those anecdotes tell us about the broader narrative that we see.”