Sandino, Augusto Nicolás Calderón
by Carla Baughman
Augusto Nicholas Calderón Sandino was
born on May 18, 1895, in Niquinohomo, Nicaragua. He was born illegitimately to a peasant
worker named Margarita Calderon and her married boss, Gregorio Sandino. However, when he
was about ten years old his mother abandoned him and he went to live with his maternal
grandmother. He was later brought into his father's household, but he was forced to earn
his keep by working and was never fully accepted.
In 1921, a situation arose that would change
his life forever. He shot and wounded Dagoberto Rivas, son of a prominent town
Conservative, for a comment Rivas made in relation to his mother. Because of this crime,
he fled Niquinohomo for fear of justice and punishment. Over the next couple of years, he
traveled and worked odd jobs all over Central America. It was also during this time that
his opinions and ideals were to be shaped by his associations with Seventh Day Adventists
and various religious gurus. He was ideologically acquainted with radical ideals on the
various political concepts of communism, anarchism, anti-imperialism as well as liberalism
and stories that glorified his own Indian heritage.
By May 1926, the Statute of Limitations on his
attempted murder charge expired. Therefore, after years of employment in other countries,
he chose to return to his hometown in Nicaragua where he planned to open his own business.
Unfortunately, his victim, Dagoberto Rivas, had become an important national political
figure and crushed his ambitions. Sandino wandered the city of Leon for some time until
that June when he met up with a troop of migrating workers and traveled to the mining
areas in the North.
By November, Sandino found employment in a
U.S.-owned mine in northern Nicaragua. It was here that he started to act out his recently
found new political ideology. He began to influence the miners urging them to rebel
against, what he saw, as unfair foreign intervention in Nicaraguan affairs. The acts of
theft and sabotage by the miners led to the Liberal rebellion, which began in 1926.
Sandino took some of his own personal savings and purchased some old weapons from
gunrunners on the Honduran border to arm the miners. They then attacked El Jicaro, but
were defeated by the defense force. Sandino realized that in order to be effective his
troops would need better weapons and equipment. With this in mind, he traveled to Puerto
Cabezas to meet with another group of rebelling Liberal troop in hopes of obtaining
weapons and men.
In December of 1926, he met with the Liberal
rebel Commander General José María Moncada. General Moncada initially denied Sandino
weapons and a military commission, primarily because Sandino was an unknown stranger.
Sandino, who was not willing to give up enlisted the help of some prostitutes and
recaptured a number of weapons from the fleeing Conservative rebels. This action
ingratiated him with other Liberal Commanders. The various liberal commanders saw nothing
to lose and everything to gain by letting the eager Sandino loose to harass government
troops in the Northeast.By 1927, The United States wanted to bring about an end to the
conflict between the Liberals and the Conservatives in Nicaragua. They were also beginning
to have a serious number of casualties inflicted on the US forces. The U.S. government
drew up a peace settlement for the two parties to agree to. The agreement, called the Espino
Negro Accords, were agreed to and signed in Tipitapa, under the sponsorship of
Colonel Henry Stimson. All of the Liberals agreed to the peace at first; however Sandino
was slow to agree and in fact, later retracted his agreement for peace, proclaiming that
he had not been consulted about the agreement. He declared he was going to keep fighting
until the U.S. had left Nicaragua.
This decision forced Sandino to move his base
of operation further into the mountains to an area known as San Rafeal el Norte. During
his stay in this region, Sandino met and later married his wife Blanca, the daughter of a
telegraphist. Throughout the rest of the year, Sandino made several proposals to
surrender, but he was never given a response by the U.S. As a result of this lack of
response, Sandino began to act as an authority figure in the region, some of his actions
were to appoint civil authorities. Further attempts to act as a legitimate civil authority
were illustrated by his renaming the city of El Jicaro after himself, Ciudad Sandino.
Sandino also began to act in an offbeat manner by issuing two political manifestos. One
was proclaiming that he had a mystical tie with the Indian race and the other was that he
intended to shed the blood of others for the sake of his cause.
By 1928, Sandino began to anticipate the former
liberal commander José Maria Moncada's presidential victory in the upcoming elections.
Upset by this, he proposed to counter this prospect. He organized a Junta in collaboration
with three marginal political factions and the opportunist Nicaraguan exile Pedro J.
Zepeda to take power. In this pact, establishing the Junta Sandino, he had himself
declared Generalissimo, the uncontested military authority of the Republic. The legitimate
presidential elections take place in December and Moncada wins the presidency as expected.
Sandino immediately declared that this new government was unconstitutional and that only
his peasant army was the sole source of legitimacy in the country. Sandino began to press
for some bizarre changes such as the changing of the standard calendar, which started on
October 4, 1912, and the beginning of resistance against U.S. troops. Sandino ordered his
loyal personal representative abroad, at this time the Honduran poet Froylán Turcios, to
communicate with Zepeda in Mexico. Turcios advised Sandino against the Junta project,
because such actions would lead to a fratricidal war that he was not prepared to support.
He also wrote the leaders of a number of European countries berating them for not
supporting his cause.
Civil war in Nicaragua ensued following
Sandino's actions. José Moncada sent a force of volunteers to fight Sandino in his area
of operations. The fighting on occasion forced Sandino to find refuge in Mexico and
Honduras. Sandino was successful in the northern region of Nicaragua only. He, however,
was not able to control the populated urban areas.
The United States completed the withdrawal of
its troops in 1933. With this withdrawal and the election of Juan Bautista Sacasa as
President of Nicaragua Sandino began to see part of his ideal fulfilled. The National
Guard of Nicaragua was given a new commander, Anastasio Somoza. The National Guard began a
successful operation against Sandino and almost encircled him. Sandino began to think
about to laying down his weapons. A Sandino sympathizer, Sofonias Salvatierra, and
pressure from his wife Blanca, persuaded him to sign a preliminary agreement with the
Sacasa government. The agreement was that, in exchange for peace, some men who wished to
stay with Sandino could do so in a commune in the Río Coco commune. These men would be
formed into an auxiliary military group under the president's supervision and
newly-appointed head of the National Guard, Anastasio Somoza. The National Guard was
supposed to create a solid, non-political force to allow the country to grow in stability.
The problem was however, that Somoza was anything but apolitical and he rapidly began to
turn the National Guard to his own uses.
In 1934, with the review of his "auxiliaries" getting ever
closer, Sandino told the President that he might not lay down his weapons because he
believed that the National Guard was unconstitutional. Sacasa called Sandino to Managua to
speak with him and, when Sandino arrived, he publicly announced that he thought that the
National Guard was unconstitutional. Sandino's talks with the President resulted in an
agreement that would, among other things, reduce Somoza's power through the National
protector significantly. On February 20, as Sandino returned from speaking with the
President, the National Guardsmen under Somoza's command, fearing a loss of power,
surrounded him and his party and executed them. The next day the National Guard raided the
northern commune, destroyed it, and killed most of Sandino's men, their wives, and