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Latin America & Caribbean

The rebellion of the Sandinista's grandchildren

Resistance, pain, insurrection, remembrance, love and downfall. These are the themes that photojournalist Javier Bauluz witnessed in the midst of the protests sweeping Nicaragua, where a popular uprising is demanding democratic change. (Bauluz is the first Spaniard to win a Pulitzer Prize and the founder of Periodismo Humano, a website focused on human rights.)
15 May 2018 – 12:38 PM EDT
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The month-long protests against the government of Daniel Ortega and his wife, vice president Rosario Murillo, have left a bloody trail of more than 300 dead, thousands injured and an unknown number of detainees and disappeared.

What began as the opposition of the population to a reform of the social security system in April has ended up becoming a collective cry of rejection of repression and the authoritarian measures of Ortega's Sandinista government.

Early in the rebellion I spent two weeks in Nicaragua portraying the movement led by 'the Sandinista's grandchildren', the young people on the front lines of the resistance, and who, consciously or not, grew up with the ideals of the famous 1979 Sandinista revolution that toppled dictator Anastasio Somoza.

In June I returned to spend several days on the barricades that citizens had erected in the streets of Masaya, a self-declared "free territory."

The images take us from the barricades – where students with homemade mortars, sticks and stones defend themselves against riot police and paramilitary groups – to the wider insurrection of a people seeking the restoration of democratic freedoms.

In the streets I witnessed feelings: the love reflected in the hugs of solidarity among demonstrators; the pain that the repression has left in more than fifty Nicaraguan families who lost their loved ones; and the remembrance of the victims reflected in the tributes posted throughout Managua, the capital.

The protest in Nicaragua is loaded with symbols: from the slogans and songs taken from the 1979 Sandinista revolution, to the blue-and-white national colors. The demonstrators have also felled one of the symbols of Ortega's government: the so-called 'trees of life', huge and expensive metal structures with which Murillo decorated the capital in recent years.

On my second trip, I crossed the barricades in the city of Masaya and also portrayed the hell of a family whose house in Managua was targeted in an arson attack, apparently in revenge for not supporting the government.

For me, this trip to Nicaragua meant a return to the country where I began my overseas career. In the 1980s, I covered the civil war between the Sandinistas, who had just emerged triumphant from the revolution, and a US-financed 'Contra' army. The massive protests that began in April appear to spell the downfall of Daniel Ortega, one of the nine Sandinista ‘comandantes’ who, in his effort to retain power for the last decade, has lost the support of many of his former comrades.

It's curious that it is the rebellion of the grandchildren of Sandinismo that now seeks to end this government that, according to them, has kidnapped the revolution.

(Spanish photojournalist Javier Bauluz, the first Spaniard to win a Pulitzer Prize.)