Correspondence

A Devil's Dictionary From Nicaragua

Letter From Managua

Revolutions attempt to give new meaning to life. Sometimes changing the definition of words is part of the attempt to change reality. At other times, reality changes first. Nowhere does the traveler have more old words with new meanings than in revolutionary Nicaragua. To help those whose first days in the country are as confused as mine, here is an abridged dictionary of the revolution (with apologies to Ambrose Bierce):

Agricultural loan: a government loan to large or small farmer carrying the patriotic interest rates of 20 to 30 percent rather than the 10 percent rate that the government considers "imperialistic" in international lending.

Air conditioners: machines that cool people as they do in other countries, but here they are also political markers found mainly in the following places: pro-government radio and television stations, offices of high government officials, and Marxist-Leninist book stores. In this classless, workers' state where most people dress alike, seeking out the air conditioners is a good way to find the important communists.

Alfabeticizacion: the national literacy campaign somewhat like the U.S. pro gram "Hooked on Books" but based on the theory that politics makes good reading if it is full of revolutionary action and party politics: C is for Carlos (founder of the Sandinista Party); G is for Guerrillero; F is for Fusi! (rifle); by...

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