Unofficial biography of Ortega a good read

Nicaragua remains a mysterious and unknown land to many outsiders and is even an enigma to those of us who have chosen to live here or visit frequently. Equally enigmatic is the figure of President Daniel Ortega. Opinions are polarized about who this man is, what he has done and what he is trying to do in Nicaragua. Those who favor him tend not to tolerate any criticism and those who oppose him usually will not recognize any of his accomplishments. (Almost sounds like the Democrats and Republicans in the U.S.)

Finally, a book has been written that may not change your opinion of President Ortega, but provides a well-researched biography of the man who has sacrificed much for his country.

Certainly Ortega has stumbled many times but he returns again and again to take the reins of power with a renewed confidence to get it right this time. I think the book “Unfinished Revolution: Daniel Ortega and Nicaragua’s Struggle for Liberation” by Kenneth E. Morris does a fairly good job of describing the trials and tribulations of President Ortega’s life and how they created a man more complex than his critics would like to believe. In addition, this book is a good history of the past 30 years of Nicaragua.

Morris’ book begins with a brief history of Nicaragua from its discovery by conquistadors in 1522 through the Somoza dictatorship. It leads quickly to the birth of José Daniel Ortega Saavedra on Nov. 11, 1945, then begins to fill in the details of Daniel’s life, many of which you may be surprised to learn.

The book continues right up to the 2008 municipal elections.

While a biography, this book also gives a good political history of the past 30 years including the democratic presidencies. It provides a history of the Sandinistas with their ideals and the resulting realities. Best of all, it is written well and keeps the reader interested, which is a rare feat for a book which focuses on a life that formed the political history of Nicaragua. At 248 pages it is not a heavy read and I plan to read it again.

One of my college professors said, “You have not learned anything if you have not changed your opinion about something.”

This book may not change your opinion of Daniel Ortega, but it will help you understand why he is the man he is. The book covers and discovers many of his successes and many of his shortcomings. At the very least, you will learn much of the man that now leads the beautiful and emerging country of Nicaragua.

For real Nicaragua buffs, there are several other books that are also good reads about this country. I suggest:

Blood of Brothers: Life and War in Nicaragua by Stephen Kinzer and Merilee S. Grindle

The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey by Salman Rushdie

Sandinista: Carlos Fonseca and the Nicaraguan Revolution by Matilde Zimmermann

Where is Nicaragua? by Peter Davis

The Country Under My Skin: A Memoir of Love and War by Gioconda Belli

Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano


Darrell Bushnell moved to Nicaragua six years ago with his wife Amy, who has the Centro D’Arte art studio/gallery on Calle Calzada in Granada. Darrell keeps busy writing newsletters and articles for various organizations about Nicaragua and has the website for expats living in Nicaragua or thinking about it.


  • http://none Carlos Cuadra

    I like your paper online. You must write about the terrible street’s of Granada. They they are full off Big Holes, around the city. Mi opinion is that the Mayor of this beautiful city is a” Big Thief”.

    All the granadinos think the same, but you. Go to ask this quesruions to the Citizen’s Have the “guevos” to write about this problem So forget to write about the rotundas, there is a lot around Europe.

  • P

    For folks who don’t have the money or time, I can save you reading the 248 pages.

    Born into a middle class family and spoiled rotten as a little burgues, Ortega joined the nascent Sandinista revolution as a useful middle class idiot. His only real action was a botched attack on La Perfecta Milk factory in which his fellow punks murdered an innocent guard and then got their asses kicked by the factory workers, the real proletariat literally kicked his ass. Then he popped up again and robbed a bank. Despite all his “Aqui no se Rinde Nadie” bullshit, the little mouse meekly surrendered to the Guardias. A drunk resisting arrest on “Cops” put up more of a struggle than little Danny boy. Then he spent 7 years in jail writing poems about how he missed the mini-skirt fad. Seriously. That happened. Then he sucked up to the Cubans and Russians and moved to Costa Rica to sell out the Revolution in comfort. Then he manipulated things behind the scenes like a scheming little gutless rat to murder Carlos Fonseca, and Pedro Joaquin Chamorro. Then after everyone else did the fighting, he left the whores and luxury homes behind in Costa Rica and delivered the Revolution to his Cuban and Soviet overlords. Then he purged his internal opponents and murdered by war, war crimes, starvation, imprisonment, torture and lack of medicines, 100,000 of his countrymen. Then the Contras got $100 mil in aid from USA and were on the verge of crushing his stooge army, which made little Danny poop his pants, negotiate, and lose an internationally monitored election. So he schemed and sabotaged for 16 years leaving Nicaragua perernially the second poorest country in the hemisphere (he must send Haiti Christmas cards), and through El Pacto, an abortion deal with the sold out half-a-man Cardinal Obando y no-muy Bravo, and wearing pink he weaseled his way back into office winning 38% of the vote. That was the death of democracy for the time being. Now he lives with his crazy ol’ lady and has money fights with his purr purrs from Chavez $500 million and the countless millions he’s robbed over the years. Quite a guy. There. Saved ya’all reading the 248 pages!

    • http://no Damian

      Obviously your executive summary is one sided, factually wrong and did no save any money and time. This negativity is a virus for Nicaragua. Life for dummies summary: Keep stability, economic growth and peace. That is what is essential!