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New Left Review 49, January-February 2008

Nicaragua’s capital as microcosm for the country’s transformation since the 1970s: shattered by earthquake and the depredations of the Somoza dictatorship, briefly lifted by Sandinista urban reconstruction, remade in the 1990s by narco-traffickers and the returning Miami emigration.



In a famous essay entitled ‘An Illness Called Managua’, the Nicaraguan poet Pablo Antonio Cuadra contended that the city was paradigmatically ‘the reflection of [Nicaraguan] society, of its grace and its bitterness, of its vice and its beauty, of its history and its community’. [1] Pablo Antonio Cuadra, ‘Una enfermedad llamada Managua’, cited in La Prensa, 13 December 2002. Managua’s recent development also provides a perspective on the dramatic transformations that the country has undergone over the past decades: from corrupt dictatorship through popular insurrection and social reconstruction, rapidly choked off by Cold War intervention and economic crisis, to a Miami-style restoration and a new growth model led by narco-trafficking and Free Trade Zones. A study of Managua’s changing morphology and socio-economic trajectory suggests that the city is less an ‘illness’ than a symptom of this pathologized development path.

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Dennis Rodgers, ‘A Symptom Called Managua’, NLR 49: £3

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