Many Nicaraguans included the Managua earthquake as part of the revolution’s narrative. Reconstruction only began in earnest in the 1990s. Somoza is forced to step down as president, although he remains head of the military. Peasants, displaced from rural areas by the concentration of landholding and the classic closing of the commons necessary for export agriculture, poured into the city. [9] Black, “The 1972 Earthquake,” 191-191. [13] Dennis Rodgers, “An Illness Called Managua,” Crisis States Working Papers Series, No. A better moniker would be la ciudad zombie; the undead city. ... July 17 is known as the Day of Happiness, since that was the day Somoza fled the country, ending about four decades of rule by his family. The newly homeless occupied novel developments like “Open Tres” on the outskirts of the city on the northwest or “Las Américas,” built on the far northeast with US-AID funding. The city centre is no longer clearly defined, as buildings have been constructed away from the city centre. The press quoted him as saying that the devastation of Managua represented a “revolution of opportunities,” which he exploited immediately by engaging in shady land deals and setting up his own construction companies.[16]. The discontent with the Somozas did not start with the earthquakes. The capital city, Managua, was the epicenter. The death toll rose to 10,000 people as 5 of the city’s 12.7 square miles collapsed in a heap of dust and cement. Somoza reacted to the uprising by ordering the air force to bomb Managua, that is, the poor neighborhoods easily identifiable in the capital under the class-segregationist reconstruction scheme he had approved and supervised (Figure 3). [Photo by Myrna Santiago, 2015]Geological Faults of Managua, INETER, May 2020. The General, a very entrepreneurial man himself, guaranteed the “peace” necessary for free enterprise to enact its magic and create prosperity. The only question was how. It sprawls from east to west unabated, blocked on the north by the Xolotlán, and spreads southeast and southwest like a tong around the low hills of the sierra de Managua, which fence it on the south. A yearbook picture of Anastasio Somoza as an upperclassman at La Salle Military Academy, Long Island, New York. They squatted wherever they could, filling in empty spaces with creative but precarious dwellings, workshops, and corner stores and expanding the capital east, west, and south. Two-thirds of Managua's 1,000,000 residents were displaced and faced food shortage and disease, and dry-season winds worsened the problem with fires created by the disaster. The downtown, about 600 city blocks, was obliterated. By all accounts, more than one thousand people lost their lives and twice that many were injured. The Sandinista government (1979-1990) approached the question of recovery and reconstruction by addressing the complexity of the matter holistically. While Luis had ruled more gently than their father, Anastasio would not tolerate opposition of any sort. He fought against the armed intervention of the United State in Nicaragua, done under the pretext of ensuring peace and democracy in the country. • 1972: Earthquakes strike Nicaragua, ... President Anastasio Somoza, son of Anastasio Somoza Garcia, flees to Miami, blaming Carter administration for his downfall. On December 22, 1972, as the city glowed in the bright colors of Christmas lights, a tremor occurred around 10 p.m., a pre-shock that Managuans could not know presaged a calamity. [12] Rebuilding the downtown could be done, but only at a high cost, with quality materials and anti-seismic technologies most people could not afford. Myrna’s work on the 1972 Managua disaster is going to be a valuable contribution to understanding modern Nicaragua. Throughout the twentieth century, the capital endured and survived man-made calamities, including foreign occupation, insurrection, revolution, and counter-revolution, all of which influenced the aftermath of the earthquakes and the physiognomy of the city. That is, they will say, “from the statue to Monsignor Lezcano, three blocks west, and two blocks to the lake,” and there you find what you are looking for. ( Log Out /  The Nicaraguan government appealed for aid, and the government accepted aid from countries like the United States and Mexico and some 25 other countries, worth millions of dollars. 1972 - Managua is devastated by an earthquake that kills between 5,000 and 10,000 people. In 1975 Somoza Debayle launched a campaign to crush the Sandinistas; individuals suspected of supporting the Front were targeted. [4] Bryan R. Higgins, “The Place of Housing Programs and Class Relations in Latin American Cities: The Development of Managua before 1980,” Economic Geography 66, no. [4] By 1970, the capital had become the most populated city in Central America, with some 425,000 inhabitants. The old downtown, nevertheless, attracted the attention of municipal and national governments. On the contrary, the escalation of the conflict resulted in direct United States intervention (on the Conservatives’ side) and the landing of the Marines in 1912. When this embezzlement became apparent, it helped fan already existing opposition to the regime throughout all levels of the Nicaraguan society. Three Somozas later, Nicaraguans were fed up with the family the United States had imposed on them four decades earlier. It was later claimed that Somoza and his associates had used foreign aid for their own gain. The earthquake destroyed all the fire-fighting equipment available, and fires were prevalent in some areas for several days. To explain, in 1972, Nicaragua was hit with a devastating earthquake. In 1979, approximately 600,000 Nicaraguans were homeless and 150,000 were either refugees or in exile, out of a total population of just 2.8 million. 4 (2015), 663. [1], Managua was a small city in 1931. The decades of neoliberalism that followed the revolutionary experiment brought no structural changes to the capital city. [citation needed] Opposition to the regime, which had begun to surface before the earthquake, increased quickly among the lower classes and even among members of the upper and middle classes fed up with Somoza's corruption. [17] Stephen Kinzer, “A Faded City Brightens in Nicaragua,” New York Times, February 17, 2002. [3] Alongside this extreme poverty, the Somoza clan and its cronies became immensely wealthy, turning Managua into their fiefdom in the same way that the old elites had claimed Granada and León. [1] Jorge Bautista Lara, La urbanización de Managua: El terremoto de 1972, Derecho Urbano Municipal (Managua: PAVSA, 2008), 39. Medical supplies, including blood transfusions, were in short supply. Following his brother Luis Somoza’s direct and indirect rule of the country from 1956 to 1966, Somoza re-established a military dictatorship in the mold of his father Anastasio Somoza García’s two-decades of … Nevertheless, perhaps the only chance the capital had to recover and rebuild in a more equitable fashion was dashed by the United States government in the 1980s. When the Marines left the country two years later in 1933, they left Somoza García at the head of the National Guard, the repressive apparatus the Marines had founded. Near where I lived people never tired of telling me about how the national guard used tents for the refugees on beach for vacations. He declared martial law, effectively taking charge of all decision-making in the capital. With the personal fortune of the strongman at stake, there was no doubt that Managua would recover. On the eve of December 22, 1972, the Cathedral that would cave in at half-past midnight had been occupied by students demanding the release of political prisoners. [10] The rich moved out to what became suburban hubs, with their own shopping malls and high gates covered in the climbing brilliant fuchsia flowers called bugambilias. She is a Professor at Saint Mary’s College in northern California, where she teaches Latin American history and directs the Women’s and Gender Studies Program. The Front, named after Augusto César Sandino (a Nicaraguan rebel leader in the 1920s), began its guerrilla war against the Somozas in 1963 and was funded by Cuba under Fidel Castro and the Soviet Union. Two hours later, at 12:29 a.m. on December 23, the earth convulsed at 6.5 on the Richter scale. Another difficulty was that much of the material aid donated was inappropriate for the needs of the affected Nicaraguans, including such items as winter clothes (Managua's climate is tropical) and frozen TV dinners.[7]. The elites thus became “modern,” able to ignore the marginalized barrios whence their maids, nannies, and chauffeurs came from. On the contrary, Managua was never more alive as large sectors of the population, including the professional classes and scions of the old elite families, became infused with revolutionary fervor. Support for the Sandinistas ballooned after the earthquake, especially when U.S President Jimmy Carterwithdrew American support for the regime for human rights reasons. Somoza … The Official Blog of the Urban History Association. It was shallow, which amplified its force to topple unreinforced buildings and homes made of mud and reeds. Managua demonstrates, then, that recovery after disaster is a relative term. The reconstruction of the city became “collateral damage” of Cold War high politics, condemning Managua, in the judgment of The New York Times, to be “still among the ugliest capital cities in the hemisphere.”[17] It all goes to show that the recovery and reconstruction process after an earthquake can be as unpredictable as the movements of the Earth itself. As in other world disasters, the 1972 earthquakes exposed the shortcomings of the government. Born on December 5, 1925 in León, Nicaragua,Anastasio Somoza Debayle, nicknamed Tachito, was the third member of the Somoza dynasty to be president of . [3] Nancy Southerland, “Post-Earthquake Urban Reconstruction in Managua, Nicaragua,” MA thesis, University of California, Berkeley, 1985, 7-8. In the process, they set the course for the future of Managua for much of the twentieth century. Immediately following the fall of the Somoza regime, Nicaragua was largely in ruins. [8] David Johnson Lee, “De-centring Managua: Post-Earthquake Reconstruction and Revolution in Nicaragua,” Urban History 42, no. Not surprisingly, the Somoza family fortune grew as international funding began to flow in 1973. Although Managua remains Central America's second largest capital and metropolitan area, the bulk of its residents reside in barrios or neighborhoods that are of considerable distance from the city centre. In 1978, an insurrection called for by a revolutionary coalition named after the anti-imperialist leader from the 1920s, Augusto César Sandino, the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN) exploded. Somoza controlled Nicaragua’s politics, military, and much of its economy. The Great Managua Earthquake of Dec. 23, 1972, claimed up to 10,000 lives, left 300,000 homeless, forever changed the character of the capital and eventually cost the late Nicaraguan strongman Anastasio Somoza his job. Nicaragua gained independence from Spa As anyone who has visited Managua knows, there is no there there because although the capital is the largest city in the country—hosting about one million of the country’s six million inhabitants—the city lacks a center. Alternative Title: Tachito Somoza Anastasio Somoza Debayle, byname Tachito Somoza, (born Dec. 5, 1925, León, Nicaragua—died Sept. 17, 1980, Asunción, Paraguay), third member of the Somoza dynasty to be president of Nicaragua (1967–79), … The epicenter was 28 kilometers northeast of the city centre and a depth of about 10 kilometers. Both times authoritarians ruled the city and both times Managua recovered its economic, political, and demographic importance. The only major construction project in the old city center was the sewage plant, the first ever for Managua. Sandino was replaced by his son Luis Somoza Debayle. Despite this and the magnitude of the devastation, the aid was not distributed well and the ruling Liberal-Conservative Junta, led by President Anastasio Somoza Debayle, was the target of criticism and was accused of stockpiling foreign aid which never reached the victims of the earthquake. The three earthquakes took up 90 seconds; enough time for a large proportion of Managua to cease to exist. In other words, Managua would be subject to earthquakes forever (Figure 5). Learn how your comment data is processed. [15] Yader Padro Reyes, “Instalan réplica de Avenida Roosevelt en el Paseo del Xolotlán,” El 19 Digital, July 17, 2014, . Similarly, history repeated itself when Anastasio Somoza Debayle, the son of the first Somoza and the head of the National Guard, became president of the Comité de Emergencia. Myrna Santiago received her PhD in History from the University of California, Berkeley. Getting at the root of the political responses to natural disasters, how to recover from inequality and poverty? Two days later, the leftist Sandinista guerrillas took power. The decision, nonetheless, did not end the armed competition between León and Granada. It is not synonymous with reconstruction, for sure. What to do with a dusty and weedy capital without a center? A scene of the terrible destruction caused by the Managua earthquake, December 23, 1972. It was political: a political renewal that swept away the old regime once and for all. Following the assassination of the Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1956, his son, Luis Somoza, ruled with the title of president, and in 1967 Luis was succeeded by his younger brother, Anastasio Somoza Debayle. As a reasonable person can imagine, the citizens of Nicaragua … (New York: Grove Press, 1986), 189-190. But this one was entirely human. But it did bring recovery to Managua, if measured by economic indicators and political importance. By the 1970s, in the aftermath of the earthquake, the FSLN exploded onto Nicaragua’s political scene as a fully-armed rebel group with the backing of a huge number of poor Nicaraguans. Less than 500 of the 6,000 dwellings, office buildings, workshops, and commercial establishments withstood the trembling. The Marines, therefore, were responsible for disaster response. Cotton and other exports fueled the growth of the capital through the 1950s and 1960s. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Visitors make much of the peculiar way in which Nicaraguans give directions. [16] Edmundo Jarquín, “Revolución de oportunidades,” La Prensa, September 23, 2017, ( Log Out /  The most enthusiastic boosters remembered Managua then “as the Switzerland of Central America, due to its beauty, ornamentation, and cleanliness.”[5] If that energetic example of peripheral capitalism was not the picture of recovery after disaster, nothing is. Sweetheart or zombie, at least Managua will always have the Xolotlán. The Marines worked with Anastasio Somoza García in the emergency committee first and then went on to appoint him as the supreme military leader upon their departure. There is no architecture there, save the skeleton of the Cathedral, the Municipal Palace that survived both earthquakes and is now the natural history museum, and the Rubén Darío Theatre, which also withstood the 1972 quakes. The stories of the corruption and looting of relief supplies were many. Forty-five minutes later, at 1:18 a.m., an aftershock measuring 5.0 rocked the city already in ruins. That is what Nicaraguans romantically call their capital city, Managua, because the two are always together, next to each other. 1974 - 1979: Anastasio Somoza Debayle: Second term. [6] It was because of these reports that the Puerto Rican baseball star Roberto Clemente chose to personally accompany the fourth of a number of relief flights he had organized. 37 (May 2008), 8. The debate over rebuilding the capital began in earnest, as it had happened briefly in 1931. Factional fighting between the León Liberals and the Granada Conservatives over the presidential chair and the apparatus of state, if not over governmental policies or strategies, led to a compromise over which city would be the capital. Evolution of a City’s Morphology,” 42nd ISoCaRP Congress, Istanbul, Turkey, Conference Proceedings (2006), 8. And yet, nature would not be denied as a historical actor. Within an hour after the main shock, two aftershocks, one of magnitude 5.0 and the other 5.2, occurred at 1:18 a.m. and 1:20 a.m.[5]. Born on December 5, 1925 in León, Nicaragua,Anastasio Somoza Debayle, nicknamed Tachito, was the third member of the Somoza dynasty to be president of. In December of 1982 I spent the 10th anniversary of that quake with people from Managua who had made a new life on the Atlantic Coast. Other Nicaraguans have used different adjectives: caótica (chaotic), desdichada (unhappy), sufrida (suffering), a gendered and tragic capital because by virtue of geography and geology Managua’s natural history has been marked by hurricanes, floods, volcanic explosions, and earthquakes. This time, however, Somoza Debayle heeded those experts who cautioned against reconstruction without putting in place and enforcing the strictest earthquake regulations. Sandino and his “small and crazy army”, as the Chilean writer Gabriela Mistral c… The March 31st quake measured 5.8 to 6 on the Richter scale. That flight crashed on December 31, 1972, killing Clemente among others. Featured image (at top): Terremoto, Managua, Nicaragua (Earthquake, Managua, Nicaragua), 1972, Marcel Toruno, Flickr. Not so post 1972. After 1972, the third Somoza in power, Anastasio Somoza Debayle, intended to build upon his father’s example. The Marines organized the Comité Local de Reconstrucción, with the nominally Liberal General Anastasio Somoza García as its president. At least 20,000 people suffered serious injuries; some 250,000 Managuans lost their homes. Seeking advice from a bevy of foreign experts to the exclusion of rival Nicaraguan social factions, Somoza embraced the notion of “decentralization,” a buzzword that came to mean the segregation of the city by class, a pattern not highly evident prior to the Christmas earthquakes. Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: You are commenting using your account. But while the capital crumpled due to the fatal combination of earthquake-prone terrain and vulnerable architecture, it was the Marines’ political decisions that galled Nicaraguans for the rest of the century. Sometimes the landmarks are no longer extant. How indeed to rebuild an entire country? I used to meet up for circus arts in a new park on a street that sported abandoned parking meters and burned out tanks. Papa Somoza García was killed in 1956 at the celebration of his re-election by Rigoberto López Pérez, a young man fed up with dictatorship masquerading as electoral democracy. The earthquakes built on that restlessness and the callousness the regime displayed in its response to the disaster. [2] Bautista Lara, La urbanización, 47-48; Roberto Sánchez Ramírez, El recuerdo de Managua en la memoria de un poblano (Managua: Alcaldía de Managua, 2008), 37, 61, 69, 71, 157. Most of its streets were unpaved (Figure 1). [Source:]. USGS, Department of the Interior (1973). The replay of 1931 was uncanny and magnified, although not unexpected. Anastasio Somoza on the right, at age 14, with brother Luis, then 16, on their family farm in Santa Rita, Nicaragua in 1940. [5] Bautista Lara, La urbanización, 59, 107. ( Log Out /  They collapsed during the 1972 earthquakes, but people will still say, “de dónde fué,” “where such-and-such used to be…” City landmarks are dead yet they are alive, just as one would expect in a zombie city. 1972 was not 1931. What may well be the final chapter of the Somoza “saga began a few hours before dawn on Dec. 23, 1972, when a violent earthquake reduced downtown … What happened next was reported worldwide: the National Guard looted the downtown as it burned. The lake, also known as Lake Managua, is the northern border of the city. More than 250,000 people were suddenly homeless. 7,000 people died and thousands of others were injured. This grew into a revolt that became the Nicaraguan Revolution, in which Somoza was overthrown in 1979. Managua, which lies on the southern shore of Lake Xolotlán, near the western coast of Nicaragua, is situated within an active volcanic zone known as the Central American Volcanic Chain. Detail of mural about the 1972 earthquakes in the Palacio Nacional, painted by Felipe Castellanos Centurion. His regime soon resembled his father's in all significant respects. Carving an economic space between the Liberals and Conservatives of old, Somoza García took advantage of the collapse of the capital city to profit personally from its reconstruction. The Cocos plate, located east of the East Pacific Rise, is moving northeastward and is slowly being submerged under the Caribbean Plate. [14] The capital remained the nerve center of the country, concentrating the national bureaucracy and political power, much of its university and medical capacities, as well as banking and commerce. Let’s backtrack: Managua was an accidental capital. The close alliance with the United States that Somoza García pursued with singular zeal began to pay off for Managua as the post war boom reached Nicaragua. The family moved to Managua, where his father rose rapidly in politics, becoming commander of Nicaragua's only armed force, the National Guard, in … Change ), You are commenting using your Facebook account. Much of the damage arose from seismic ground movement which occurred within 10–15 seconds of the main shock. Papa Somoza García was killed in 1956 at the celebration of his re-election by Rigoberto López Pérez, a young man fed up with dictatorship masquerading as electoral democracy. The earthquake left approximately 10,000 dead and some 50,000 families homeless. The recovery here was not physical, architectural, or economic, of course. In 2014, the government inaugurated a miniature recreation of several blocks of Roosevelt Avenue in the 1960s, with scale models that includes businesses, schools, banks, the Cathedral, and more (Figure 6). Family fun is the theme that coheres development in the broken heart of the old capital. There was nature to take into consideration. Good fortune comes his way in the same year, when a massive earthquake strikes the capital city and martial law is declared, putting Somoza back in charge of the country after the 1974 'elections'. This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Geological Survey document: "Historic Earthquakes". The US military, once more, came to Somoza’s rescue, sending troops to occupy the destroyed city, support the firefighting, and “incinerating corpses with flamethrowers.”[7] When the fires were suffocated, Somoza surrounded the rubble in barbed wire for demolition and clean-up work. Nicaragua received a lot of foreign aid after the earthquake, but president Somoza and his cronies took a lot of it for their own use. The 1972 earthquakes had been the focus of intense scientific study by academics and engineers who discovered that the geological strata below Managua was cracked by multiple faults. [4] Because of the damaging effects of the earthquake, many of the emergency services in the city were operating at a seriously lower level than normal. Her research has been on the oil industry in Mexico, focused on the social and environmental consequences of extraction. In 1972, an earthquake devastated Nicaragua's capital city, Managua. He went on to assassinate Augusto César Sandino, the leader of an anti-imperialist guerrilla militia that had bedeviled the Marines for years, in 1934 and to inaugurate a family dictatorship that lasted until 1979. Somoza (commanding the National Guard) took charge as the head of a National Emergency Committee. At the end of Spanish colonialism in 1821, the country’s elite was divided between two cities: León on the west and Granada in the east. As in 1931, the quake was shallow, which meant the shaking aboveground was intense, throwing people off their beds. Founded in 1926, in 1932 it was bought by Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Zelaya, who had become editor-in-chief. The earthquake caused widespread casualties among Managua's residents: 4,000–11,000 were killed, 20,000 were injured and over 300,000 were left homeless. [15] That project followed similar tiny reproductions of the country’s churches elsewhere in the park. Today, in place of the large buildings that used to exist in the centre, the government set up the "Plaza de la Fe" (Faith Square) in honor of Pope John Paul II. — Currently as the head of Nicaragua's Guardia Nacional (National Guard), Anastasio Somoza issued a message of distress to the world, and an outpouring of international response occurred as a result. Originally inhabited by various indigenous cultures since ancient times, the region was conquered by the Spanish Empire in the 16th century. The earthquake destroyed all the fire-fighting equipment available, and fires were prevalent in some areas for several days. 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