best to teach about sandino and the marines in
question! This is the homepage
for curricular suggestions & materials for middle school
secondary school teachers and college & university professors who want to incorporate into the
classroom issues relating to US imperialism in Latin
America and the US intervention in Nicaragua.
the near future I hope to add directed lesson
plans, study guides & discussion questions on specific
documents & document collections, developed in
collaboration with students. In the
meantime, I suggest directing students to the
pages. These are meant to be brief, easily
digestible, reader-friendly narratives that present the
full text of some very interesting documents, most
accompanied by photos and ancillary documents.
Each of the Top 100 Documents (of which there are
currently 56) is preceded by a brief
critical introduction that summarizes how & why the the
document was produced, what it says, why I think it's
important, and some broader issues & themes it touches
especially illuminating documents in the Top 100
pgs. 2 & 3
on Sandino's revolutionary activities at the now-iconic
San Albino Mine;
on a smooth-talking fake Sandinista "general" who lined
his pockets peddling Nicaraguan patriotism in Central &
on the sacking of the Neptune Mine;
on the infamous San Marcos murders;
on the observations of an anonymous member of the
Segovian elite on what Sandinismo meant to him; and
on an English coffee grower's account of the sacking of
his coffee farm . . . though there are any number of
others that would make for some interesting classroom
discussions (critical feedback on these pages is
I would also suggest directing students to the
Patrol & Combat Reports (PC-Docs),
which offer endless possibilities for classroom
discussion and represent some of the most illuminating
documents to come out of the US intervention. Some
especially interesting reports & collections of documents
Hatfield's report & related documents on the
Battle of Ocotal, followed by
Floyd's report on the Special Expedition
against El Chipote, Nov-Dec 1927
especially if read in tandem with the
personal diary of Lt. J. Kilcourse and
related reports on these events. Also of interest
O'Day's report on the Battle of Bramadero in
February 1928, accompanied by Sandino's and a Sandinista
polemicist's accounts; and the
reports by Captains Holmes, Skidmore, Gray, Kingston &
Kenyon on the combined assault on El
Chipote in April 1928. There are some gripping
documents in these collections. Fish around.
conclude with the following
Frequently Asked Questions about
the US intervention that can provide a useful
springboard for broader discussions among students about
this topic. I (soon will) respond to each question
with a brief answer and suggestions for further reading.
Suggestions for additions to this list of FAQs are
welcome. Ideally this
curricular effort will be a collaborative one
so if you have
any bright ideas on how to integrate Sandino & the
Marines in Nicaragua into the classroom (or constructive
criticism of the FAQs and my responses), please write!
ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE US INTERVENTION IN NICARAGUA
was the United States in Nicaragua to begin
with? Was it mainly to protect US
investment in the country, or what? Why did the United
States care enough about events in Nicaragua to
The USA became involved in Nicaraguan affairs mainly
because of a canal that was never built. From the
1850s to 1902, Nicaragua was the favored locale for a
trans-isthmian canal linking Atlantic & Pacific Oceans.
After late 1902 when President Teddy Roosevelt and the
US Congress decided to build the canal in Panama (carved
out of Colombia just for that purpose), the main US
interest in Nicaragua was to prevent the building of a
So in a nutshell, the USA was involved in
Nicaraguan affairs mainly to protect the Panama
Canal and US geo-strategic interests in the
larger Caribbean Basin. Recall that the
United States had been actively intervening in
its southern "backyard" from 1898 and the
in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Panama, the Dominican
Republic, Haiti, Mexico, and even Honduras.
In Nicaragua the United States aimed mainly to
prevent the Nicaraguans from building a canal
that would rival the Panama Canal and
potentially undermine US hegemony in the
Caribbean Basin and Western Hemisphere. To
achieve this end, US policymakers deemed it
necessary to promote its version of "order &
stability" throughout the isthmus, and
especially in Nicaragua.
Recall too that US imperialism in the late 19th
and early 20th centuries was part & parcel of
the Age of Imperialism and contests for empire
among European powers, an important underlying
cause of the Great War (1914-1918). As a
Great Power, the USA was essentially carving out
its sphere of influence in the Americas, and
working to prevent the British, Germans, French,
and others from doing the same.
In short, the underlying causes of US
involvement & military intervention in Nicaragua
were deep and complex, but the main US goal was
not to protect US investments in
Nicaragua. Such investments were a tiny
fraction of US investments in Latin America and
the world. American gold mines in
Nicaragua (like the famous San Albino Mine) were
small fry compared to the big US investments in
Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, the Middle East, and
elsewhere. The main goals were to foster
"order & stability" and to "protect American
lives & property"
umbrella phrases that could be used to justify
just about any specific policy, like taking over
the country's banks & finances with the 1910
Dawson Pact, for instance.
With respect to Sandino, the main goal was to
eliminate what was officially recognized as
"organized banditry". In virtually all
official US government records, Sandino and his
followers were called "bandits". Such
bandits were seen as threats to the larger goals
of fostering "order & stability" and "protecting
American lives & property", so logically they
needed to be eliminated. Hence the US
invasion & occupation of Las Segovias, which
inevitably led to a lot of violence against
civilians, which in turn sparked a huge
anti-Yankee backlash among the region's
campesinos and fueled the nearly six-year
rebellion that is the subject of these pages.
Ironically (as I've argued elsewhere), if the
USA had simply ignored Sandino, let him sack &
burn a few American properties and leave it at
that, it is very likely that his entire
rebellion would have fizzled and died by early
1929 (when Liberal General José
assumed the presidency after the US-supervised
elections of November 1928, a leader the great
majority of Nicaraguans appear to have seen as
legitimate), leaving no organic social basis for
the ideology of Sandinismo.
In other words, if the USA had ignored Sandino,
it's very likely that Nicaraguans & Segovianos
would have ignored him, too. There'd have
been no Sandino rebellion, and no Sandinista
Revolution half a century later. Talk
about unintended consequences!
2. How was the US
intervention in Nicaragua part of a broader pattern of
US involvement in Latin America and the Caribbean during
these years? What are the best books to read
on the subject?
3. Who was Augusto C. Sandino?
What kind of man was he? What's the best biography
of him in English? In Spanish?
4. What did Sandino want?
Why did he rebel against US intervention in Nicaragua?
5. Why did the United States
withdraw from Nicaragua when it did? What role did
internal US politics and the Great Depression play in
the decision to withdraw US troops?
6. Who won the war? Did
Sandino succeed in defeating the Marines and kicking out
the United States?
7. How was Sandino killed?
Who killed him? Why? Was the United States
involved? What happened to his remains?
8. What happened after
9. What is the relationship
between Sandino's rebellion in the 1920s and 1930s and
10. How is Sandino remembered
today? What main legacy did he leave behind?