Every Thursday since 1988, a group of people have gathered to hold talks and presentations in honor of the work of Ben Linder. Completely volunteer-run, Casa (house) Ben Linder consists mostly of ex-pat volunteers, NGO workers, or people from faith-based organizations who share a similar passion for living in solidarity with the Nicaraguan people.
Ben Linder was a young American engineer who came to Nicaragua in 1983 in order to support the efforts of the Sandinista revolution. The Reagan administration was attempting to cripple the Sandinista revolution, and thoroughly backed thousands of Contra rebels who attacked schools, clinics, and any improvements the revolution had tried to bring about. Ben worked in helping build a hydroelectric plant for a small village in Nicaragua, along with using his experience as a circus clown to bring laughter and joy to children and adults alike.
On April 28th, 1987, Ben and two Nicaraguans were killed in a Contra ambush. His death sparked debate in the United States about U.S. involvement and policy, and brought more criticism from Americans about the U.S. Involvement. During the 1980s, Nicaragua was a hot-spot in the news, and attracted journalists, activists, and people wanting to stand in solidarity with the Nicaraguans. Groups such as Witness for Peace began in Nicaragua, and a number of NGOs that I am getting to know started in this time period.
The most recent Casa Ben Linder talk was a presentation of a newly published book, called Nicaragua: Survivng the Legacy of U.S. Policy. Paul Dix was a photographer documenting the war in Nicaragua from 1985 to mid-1990. Pam Fitzpatrick was working with Witness for Peace during this time. In 2002, Paul had thousands of photos from the war and selected approximately 100 Nicaraguans to follow-up on. Together with Pam, they returned to Nicaragua on four trips, tracking down nearly all the individuals in the photographs. The book they have compiled is a selection of thirty testimonies of Nicaraguans who survived the war, with both past and recent photos of the individuals.
I have yet to get my hands on this book, but was incredibly moved by hearing about this project. Even a quick glance through the book showed the power of the images and testimonies. Paul and Pam talked of the importance of sharing the stories of the Nicaraguan people. I continue to be shocked at how little my generation of Americans (including myself before coming here) knows about what happened in Nicaragua, and the repurcussions of U.S. involvement that continue to this day. The words of the Nicaraguans in the book are testimony to incredible suffering, resiliance, and ability to forgive.
The book is bilingual (Spanish/English) and was completely self-published, created by volunteers, and all proceeds go to support the Nicaraguan people through various organizations on the ground here. I highly recommend ordering a copy as a way of showing solidarity, informing yourself about this recent (and current) historical event, and educating the next generation about the ramifications of war.
Check out this 7-min YouTube video to hear the authors speak about the project: