Nicaragua Spraycation, part one…

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Vintage revolutionary mural in Esteli, c. 1989, by Colectivo Boanerges Cerrato

[Read Part 2]Daniel Ortega came to power in Nicaragua in 1979 after a populist revolution. Formally elected president in 1985, he promised to break up the oligarchy and to continue the self-governing ideals of Sandino and Carlos Fonseca, the inspiration and founder of the FSLN, or Sandinista party. This put him in Reagan’s crosshairs, and through the 1980s the U.S. spent hundreds of millions to oust him by supporting the Contras, both publicly and secretly.

Political graffiti – Viva Sandino, silhouettes of Sandino, and things like that – were part of the popular movement, but what really made the Nicaraguan revolution artistically interesting was its use of murals. These were big, strident, heavily symbolic, viva la revolucion-style murals, and beautiful if not subtle: “The war is the peace of the future” – things like that. And there were many of them.

FSLN (Sandinista party) graffiti, with aftermarket tag.

Ortega lasted until 1990, when he was voted out, yet returned to the presidency in 2006. The murals of the Revolution years had by this point long since faded or been painted over by subsequent leaders. The new addition to the Nicaraguan cityscape – Managua, mostly – was graffiti in the international style, led by artists like CHUCK, OREK, CROW, ICON, SIME, and many more. They contend with expensive paints in few colors and generally poor quality, but have a receptive city to paint in.

But that’s not the graffiti that dominates Nicaragua. The presidency, and Ortega, is up for election again in 2011. One morning in early 2010, Nicaraguans awoke to find “Viva Daniel,” “Viva FSLN,” and a handful of other slogans, spraypainted in black and red, the FSLN colors, on every block in the nation, urban or rural, across the fronts of stores, homes, and municipal property.

How it came to pass will be part two of this story….

CHUCK, Nicaraguan graffiti O.G., painting last week in Managua