The Disappearing Dream: El Sueño de Bolivar and Mural Art in Nicaragua
 
 
   
 
 
  The 1979 Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua, which toppled the 45-year dynastic regime of the Somoza dictatorship, inspired people around the world. Throughout the 1980s, people flocked to Nicaragua to see the new experiment in democracy and social justice. Many of the visitors were artists, who joined the Sandinistas' cultural and educational program of painting murals throughout the country.

In 1981, a group of Chilean exiles, along with a team of Nicaraguan helpers, painted a mural on Managua's main downtown street. Called El Sueño de Bolivar, the mural told the entire history of Latin America, from the Spanish conquest to the Sandinista revolution.

That same year, the Reagan administration launched the counterrevolutionary, or contra, war against the Sandinistas. After years of military battles and economic blockade, the Sandinistas were voted out of power in the elections of 1990.

The new president, Violeta Chamorro, headed a program of rolling back many Sandinista social and cultural programs. She offered no objection as the mayor of Managua, Arnoldo Alemán, launched a "beautification" campaign in 1991 that included removal of the now famous murals throughout the city.

But nicaragüenses would not let the mural go without a fight. They responded with grafitti, which the government repeatedly painted over. The fight that played out on the wall in downtown Managua was about public space and historicial memory. Who controls the public space and the right to express opinions? What happens when historical memory is quite literally erased? Can ten years of revolution be wiped out?

By 1997, after Alemán's election to the presidency in 1996, the wall had been painted again, this time with a bright-colored graphic design that is grafitti-proof. But the Alemán government has not been able to wipe out the traces of the revolution as easily as he did the murals. The Sandinistas are still the single largest party in Nicaragua and hold 40 percent of the seats in the National Assembly. Tens of thousands of nicaragčenses continue to celebrate the triumph of the revolution every July 19.

This website is designed to reclaim that public space by showing the original mural and the battle that ensued over its removal. Sandinista founder Tomás Borge once said that the Nicaraguan revolution had no borders because its example was inspirational worldwide. The rise of the internet and its ability to cross borders brings a new opportunity for the revolution to inspire. It also helps to recreate the public space within Nicaragua. The mural is no longer on the wall - but it can be downloaded from this site, printed out, and put on many walls in Nicaragua and around the world.