Holidays in the United States celebrate horrific events like the settler colonists declaring their independence from Britain so they could take indigenous lands and protect slavery. There’s also Thanksgiving, the commemoration of genocide that has become a day for Americans to have grateful thoughts before spending more than they can afford to celebrate Christmas. Christmas is supposedly a religious holiday but is rarely treated as such. Labor Day was created to prevent the recognition of May Day, May Day, which commemorates just one example of US state oppression that took place in Chicago in 1886.
But this columnist just witnessed two special days in the Central American nation of Nicaragua. July 17th is known as Día de la Alegría, Day of Joy. On July 17, 1979, Anastasio Somoza, the US puppet and dictator, fled the country as the Sandinistas, Frente Sandinista de Liberation Nacional (FSLN), prepared to take power. Two days later, on July 19, 1979, the Sandinistas emerged victorious after years of armed struggle. The closeness of the two days makes for serious and righteous folk celebrations.
Coming from a nation that changed the name of a holiday from Armistice Day, a celebration of peace, to Veterans Day and then added another celebration of deaths in war, Memorial Day, the Nicaraguan holidays were a breath of fresh air. Both days celebrate a revolutionary process and determination to fight against US interference in this nation.
Observing these special days in NIcaragua is an opportunity to see that revolutionary change is possible. Of course, people in the US are told that nothing they want is possible. Americans want free healthcare, but are told they can’t have it. They want the minimum wage to go up, but they’re told they can’t get it either. They want student loan debt to go away but are despised for daring to mention what Joe Biden said during his campaign. The lie proves he knows what voters want. In a country where nothing but mass incarcerations, increases in military spending and other forms of austerity are possible, holidays that mean something to the average citizen are a revelation.
Of course, Nicaraguans can get free health care and attend free universities, and this is precisely why this country is under constant US attack. The hegemon will seek to stamp out any revolutionary activity in this hemisphere. The foundations are indeed shaky if a nation of 6.5 million people is allowed to reject US imperialism without suffering consequences.
The Ronald Reagan administration attacked Nicaragua from the early days of the Sandinista government. In 1980, they began a 10-year contra war that included introducing crack cocaine to the United States. Millions of dollars were spent to reverse the revolution that played a role in defeating the Sandinistas in 1990. Voters restored her to power in 2006 and have continued to do so ever since. The US has not given up and played a big part in an attempted 2018 coup. Picking up where Donald Trump left off, Joe Biden spearheaded the bipartisan RENACER Act in 2020, which brought new sanctions on the Nicaraguan government.
The State Department and its corporate media partners have not ceased their attacks on the Nicaraguan people and the government they elected. If Nicaragua enacts the same rules for operating NGOs as the US, it will be branded a dictatorship by the New York Times, BBC, Washington Post and Associated Press. The oligarchic class, which is outnumbered in elections, has a friend in the US state and is given access to 60 Minutes and other channels where they can attack the government.
These attacks are a sign that the 150-year history of US interference in Nicaragua is not over. The Monroe Doctrine, which claims the US owns this hemisphere, is very much alive, and big stories about “conflict meat” are a sign that more interventions are on the way.
But the widespread celebrations of Día de la Alegría and July 19, July 19 are a testament to popular support in Nicaragua. Under international law, they have the right to sovereignty and a government of their choice. They are not dissuaded by the war propaganda in the US media. You know of William Walker, an American mercenary who raised an army to establish a slave state in Nicaragu in 1856. You know of the US Navy occupation from 1911 to 1933 and those alive today survived the Contra War and attempted 2018 coup.
This story explains the love for these commemorations and why any US effort at regime change will meet with fierce opposition. Instead of believing blown falsehoods, the people of this country should focus on making change for their own good. Maybe then we can have holidays that make sense for all the right reasons.