The 1980 Nicaraguan National Literacy Crusade

  • Robert F. Arnove


The 1980 Nicaraguan National Literacy Crusade was born of the struggle to depose a repressive political regime and establish a new social order. One year prior to coming to power, the broad-based coalition of insurgent forces led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (Freute Sandinista de Liberación Nacional, FSLN) issued a twenty-five point umbrella program of reform that included, as point 14, the following:

The Frente Sandinista will dedicate itself from the very start to fight against illiteracy so that all Nicaraguans may learn how to read and write; and everyone, including adults, will be able to attend school to prepare for a career and to excel.1


Atlantic Coast Literacy Skill Literacy Worker Mass Organization Peasant Farmer 
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  1. 2.
    Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), “The Historic Program of the FSLN,” in Sandinistas Speak (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1982), p. 142.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Valerie Miller, Between Struggle and Hope: The Nicaraguan Literacy Crusade (Boulder, Col.: Westview Press, 1985), p. 21.Google Scholar
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    Nicaraguan Ministry of Education, “The Great National Literacy Campaign: Heroes and Martyrs for the Creation of Nicaragua,” mimeographed report, translated and edited by the National Network in Solidarity with the Nicaraguan People (Managua: Nicaraguan Ministry of Education, January 1980), p. 1.Google Scholar
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    For a detailed study of the role of the National Guard in maintaining the Somoza family in power for a period of four decades, see Richard Millett, Guardians of the Dynasty (New York: Orbis, 1977).Google Scholar
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    Arthur Gillette, Cuba’s Educational Revolution (London: Fabian Society, 1972), p. 20. Gillette actually distinguishes between education for communism and education in communism.Google Scholar
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    For a statement of the CNA as a political priority of the Sandinista government, see Guillermo Rothschuh Tablada and Carlos Tamez, La Cruzada National de Alfabetización de Nicaragua: Su Organizatión y Estrategias de Participatión y Mobilizatión (Paris: UNESCO, 1983), p. 56.Google Scholar
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    For further discussion on the recruitment of literacy teachers, see Jan L. Flora, John McFadden, and Ruth Warner, “The Growth of Class Struggle: The Impact of the Nicaraguan Literacy Crusade on the Political Consciousness of Young Literacy Workers,” Latin American Perspectives 36 (Winter 1983), pp. 53–55.Google Scholar
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    See Charles L. Stansifer, “The Nicaraguan National Literacy Crusade,” American University Field Staff Reports, South America, No. 41, 1981, p. 5.Google Scholar
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    See Paulo Freire, “The Adult Literacy Process as Cultural Action for Freedom,” Harvard Educational Review 40 (May 1970), pp. 205–23, and his Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York: Herder & Herder, 1970).Google Scholar
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    A parallel situation existed in Cuba. See the discussion of Jonathan Kozol, “A New Look at the Literacy Campaign in Cuba,” Harvard Educational Review (Summer 1978), pp. 341-77, especially p. 354.Google Scholar
  12. 25.
    For further discussion along these lines, see Robert F. Amove and Jairo Arboleda, “Literacy: Power or Mystification?” Literacy Discussion 4 (December 1973), pp. 389–414.Google Scholar
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    See, for example, Martin Carnoy, Education as Cultural Imperialism (New York: McKay, 1974), esp. Chap. 1.Google Scholar
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    For a discussion of the type of consciousness-raising and organizing activities that occurred during the clandestine period of resistance to the Somoza regime, see Omar Cabezas, Fire from the Mountain (New York: Crown Publishers, 1985), pp. 37, 210, translated from the original novel in Spanish, La Montaña Es Algo Mas que una Inmensa Estepa Verde, by Gonzalo Zapata.Google Scholar
  15. 31.
    For further discussion, see Philippe Bourgois, “Class, Ethnicity and the State among the Miskito Amerindians of Northeastern Nicaragua,” Latin Amencan Perspectives 29 (Spring 1981), pp. 22–39; also his “Nicaragua’s Ethnic Minorities in the Revolution,” Monthly Review 37 (January 1985), pp. 22-44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Philip A. Dennis, “The Costenos and the Revolution in Nicaragua,” Journal of Interamencan Studies and World Affairs 23 (August 1981), pp. 271–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 33.
    For discussion of the census taken to ascertain the level of illiteracy in the country, see Fernando Cardenal, S. J. and Valerie Miller, “Nicaragua 1980: The Battle of the ABCs,” Harvard Educational Review 51 (February 1981), pp. 13–14.Google Scholar
  18. 39.
    See Hugo Assmann, ed., Nicaragua Triunfa en la Alfabetización (Managua: Ministry of Education and San Jose, Costa Rica: Departamento Ecumenico de Investigaciones, 1981), p. 194.Google Scholar
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    Beverly Treumann, “Nicaragua’s Second Revolution,” Christianity and Crisis 41 (November 2, 1981), pp. 297–98.Google Scholar
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    Rosa Maria Torres, De Alfabetizando a Maestro Popular: La Post-Alfabetización en Nicaragua (Managua: Institute de Investigaciones Económicas y Sociales, 1983), p. 10. My translation from Spanish.Google Scholar
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    Rosa Maria Torres, De Alfabetizando a Maestro Popular: La Post-Alfabetización en Nicaragua (Managua: Institute de Investigaciones Económicas y Sociales, 1983), p. 10.Google Scholar
  22. 73.
    Carlos Tünnermann Bernheim in Primer Congreso Nacional de Educatión Popular de Adultos (Managua: Ministry of Education, June 6-7, 1981), p. 21.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert F. Arnove
    • 1
  1. 1.School of EducationIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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