These Young Nicaraguan Women Are Pushing Back Against State Violence Through The Power Of Art

credit: Darcy

The Nicaraguan people are living through its largest uprising since the end of its civil war in the 1990s. For the last month, protests, led by students, the elderly and workers, have been held to voice opposition to President Daniel Ortega and the Sandinista government’s policies, violations of the constitution and overall dictatorial tendencies.

The demonstrations have been met with violent state repression. According to La Prensa Nicaragua, more than four media outlets were shut down or heavily censored by the government and currently 85 people have been killed and almost 1,000 have been injured throughout the Central American country. To stay informed, many people are receiving news updates by following the stories of Nicaraguan citizens through trending hashtags, like #SOSNicaragua #SOSINSS and #QueSeRindaTuMadre.

In these times, art, which has the power to educate and empower, has been used to spread awareness and challenge injustice. FIERCE spoke with Nicaraguan and Nicaraguan-American women who are using art to say, “Ya Basta.” Here, four artists who have created powerful illustrations and poetry that help us visualize the beauty and power behind Nicaragua’s current and historical resistance.

Darcy

Darcy, who asked to use a pseudonym to protect her from being censured and targeted by the government, is an illustrator and designer originally from Bluefields, Nicaragua and now living in Managua, the nation’s capital. Her most popular illustration, which shows a young woman with the Nicaraguan flag and emblem stating “Nicaragua Libre” across her face and blood dripping from her brow, has been widely shared by people in and outside of the country. That piece, which shows us how the threat of violence and hypervigilance are the real risks that many Nicaraguan youth are facing as they engage in protests around the country, and one of an inflamed cola bottle, which makes the connection between today’s protests and a well-known photo of a Sandinista revolutionary during the 1970s that was fighting against the brutal Somoza regime, have circulated internationally and are even used as posters and default profile pictures on social media for the youth leading current protests.

A college student studying graphic design, Darcy’s art urges the international community to focus on accessing and broadly sharing information from credible news sources from the people of Nicaragua and reputable international outlets. Noting that art and political spaces are heavily run by men, Darcy’s art moves away from this by centering women who are at the forefront of social change.

Gabriela Alemán

CW/TW: Violence, Blood, Abuse Journalists, students & the elderly in Nicaragua are victims of violence inflicted by the government following arbitrary reforms on the social security system. SIGN THE PETITION (link in bio) ! DENOUNCE THE VIOLENCE, DENOUNCE THE CENSORSHIP & STAND IN SOLIDARITY ! – "No se rendirán.Nicaragua se levanta en momentos de opresión, Nicaragua se levanta en momentos de abuso, Nicaragua se levanta para defender y apoyar el pueblo." – Papá Alemán – @anaiscat & I have been working closely to come up with a phrase and graphic to show our solidarity with the 🇳🇮 PEOPLE. In a time when the government is shutting down news outlets for hours at a time, we ask you to use your platforms! PLEASE use the hashtag #SOSNicaragua & #SOSINSS

A post shared by Gabriela Alemán (@smugmorenita) on

Gabriela Alemán is a queer Nicaraguan-Salvadoran artist born and raised in San Francisco’s Mission District. Her art, which often features #CentralAmericanHeroes who are largely overlooked in history, is inspired by the women in her life, including her mother, her sisters from the folklore group Chavalos Danzas por Nicaragua and the women at the forefront of Nicaragua’s struggle for freedom, like Francisca “Chica” Ramirez.

Alemán, 23, reminds us that the fight Nicaraguan students are taking on was in many ways built on the existing struggle led by Nicaragua’s indigenous people, Afro-Nicaragüenses and campesinos who have been leading caravans of protesters from the Atlantic to the Pacific for more than four years to protest violations to human rights and the constant threat of destruction of natural resources and sovereign lands.  

On April 21, Alemán created “Nicaragua Se Levanta,” a piece that shows two people dressed in trajes tipicos facing the words “Nicaragua Se Levanta” to symbolize the connection between our folklore, our culture and our resistance as Nicaraguans who are no longer afraid.

The following month, on May 30, known as Nicaraguan Mother’s Day, Alemán shared an illustration showing Daniel Ortega and Anastasio Somoza Debayle side by side with the popular protest phrase “Ortega y Somoza son la misma cosa.” Her caption reads, “To the mothers of Nicaragua, you are in the hearts of many organizing & working to amplify the voices of your children. Your child’s right to have a voice, that was unjustly taken away, will not be in vain.” On this day, thousands will meet in Managua’s city center to protest alongside Nicaraguan mothers that lead El Movimiento Madres de Abril to commemorate the lives lost and call the government to justice.

Frida Francela

Frida Francela is a 20-year-old Nicaraguan graphic design student from Masaya, Nicaragua who was in class at her university when the Juventud Sandinista, a group of Nicaraguan youth funded and trained by Ortega’s government, took over the school and forced all students and staff to evacuate. Francela, along with hundreds of students, ran out of campus and found herself trapped behind barricades on Wednesday, April 18, the day that sparked demonstrations around the country led by the elderly, university students and other Nicaraguan activists.

After this experience, Francela decided it was time to use her position as an artist to share with the world what is happening in Nicaragua. Living in Masaya, one of the most politically active and resistant cities of Nicaragua, she saw firsthand how the government’s repression has sought to silence Nicaraguans seeking justice and accountability.

Her work combines images of activists, Nicaraguan landmarks and popular phrases promoting hope and unity. Most recently, she created an illustration of a single candle that reads, “Nos Faltan 70+” which is inspired by Nicaraguan singer Ceshia Ubau’s song “Una Vela,” commemorating all those that have been murdered for speaking out against the government. Nicaragua is in constant struggle and mourning, and Francela’s black and white art allows us to commemorate that fight and the lives lost in the lucha.

Anaís Catalina González

Anaís Catalina González is a Nicaraguan writer from Los Angeles that draws her roots from the small town of Posoltega in the department of Chinandega. González’s writing is heavily influenced by her time in Nicaragua as a child and experiencing Ortega’s re-election, listening to folklore with her family and taking in their narratives about life in Nicaragua during  the ‘70s and ‘80s. Her most recent pieces are inspired by the words of her family, “Nicaragua se carga en el corazón,” and her commitment to speaking about the injustices faced in Nicaragua. She powerfully describes the reality of Nicaraguans waking up to news of more deaths and another mother who lost her child to this struggle with, “Cada noche que cierro mis ojos, al despertar sangre inocente corre entre las calles del pueblo. Mil llantos de madre resuenan, por tener en sus brazos a un hijo sin aire, sin palpitaciones.”

The 22-year-old’s poetry bridges our nostalgia, resistance and hopes for a better future in Nicaragua.

These women, and the other Nicaraguan and Nicaraguan-American femmes using art as a tool for change, speak, create and resist with their art and demand that we no longer remain silent as we witness murders, marches and failed attempts at dialogue with Ortega’s regime. It’s time for us to listen, to feel and to bear witness to the Nicaraguan people’s lucha.

Read: From Fed Up Teens To Mourning Mothers To Angry Celebs, This Is How Nicaraguan Women Are Fighting Back Against Political Violence

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