Although Nicaragua is important to me for family reasons (my brother has lived there for the last 5 years), the more I learn about its history the more I think everyone- particularly Americans- would find it fascinating and should be learning about it. Blood of Brothers is history filtered through memoir, narrated by being Stephen Kinzer, formerly an NYT bureau chief stationed in Nicaragua. Kinzer lived in Nicaragua during its tumultuous and horrific civil war, book ended with the Sandinistas ousting the brutal Somoza dictators in 1979 and the peace treaty brokered by Costa Rica in 1987.
Kinzer’s book is widely regarded as one of the best histories of Nicaragua generally and of the Sandinista-Contra civil war specifically. I do not disagree. Like Kinzer, I am heartbroken for the majority of ordinary Nicaraguans, whose lives were (and continue to be in) constantly in upheaval, whipsawed between ambitious reformers, American interests and corrupt homegrown autocrats/politicians. Kinzer is measured and factual in explaining the interests and power dynamics behind the civil war, but once you know the facts it is hard to come out without a worse opinion of Ronald Reagan specifically and American foreign politics generally. America funded a civil war in which Nicaragua bore an incredible human and financial burden, and America has hardly been held to account.
Aside from inspiring some rage, Kinzer’s book is wonderful in its encompassing scope, including his trips to Nicaragua’s eastern coasts and jungles. It was a really interesting look at how Nicaragua is not a homogenous country, and that the Caribbean coast has its own history, filled with indigenous tribes and English-speaking Afro-Carribbean settlers.
I cannot recommend this book enough.