which brought in sympathizers to cut sugar cane.) SomenAmericans and Westerners also live more or less permanentlynin Nicaragua, while others are content to spend a fewnweeks there on various projects.nThe Christian Science Monitor estimated in 1987 thatn”1,500 Americans are living and working in Nicaragua . . .nSince the Sandinistas came to power in 1979 about 40,000nAmericans have gone to Nicaragua for humanitarian ornpolitical work.” The motives of these people were summednup by a member of a women’s brigade intent on building anschool: “Going to Nicaragua is a direct act of conscience innopposition to our government’s aggression and in solidaritynwith the Nicaraguan people.” Elsewhere the volunteersnhave been characterized as people being “just fed up — notnonly with societies where they felt s y waking up everynmorning but with the whole postcountercultural web ofnsecond thoughts and rationalizations that’s left Westernersn. . . helpless . . . [F]or many of the North Americans andnEuropeans alike coming here has turned out to be thenbeginning of the long way back from 20 years of lockstepnfaith that nobody can ever really do anything anyway, andnnothing good can last.” The attraction of Nicaragua is alsonassociated with a “renewal of belief in the possibility of anrevolution not foreordained to be the cat’s paw of eithernsuperpower rivalry or homegrown despotism.” In othernwords, Nicaragua is the new antidote to the post-1960’s lossnof illusions.nIn a single year, according to a Nicaraguan governmentnofficial, 100,000 foreigners visited Nicaragua, of whom 40npercent were American. As the 1986 article quoting thesenfigures pointed out, most of them did not come “to see thennatural beauty but to get a look at the Sandinista revolution.nMost of them … are connected with churches,nunions and universities, groups generally sympathetic to thenSandinistas.”nSympathy toward the Nicaraguan Marxist-Leninist governmentnhas other manifestations besides the massnpolitical tourism. The Boston City Council proclaimed (inn1988) November 3 “Ernesto Cardenal Day” in honor ofnthe minister of culture, also a poet and priest. Burlington,nVermont, and Berkeley, California, are sister cities ofnManagua. Across the nation support groups, foremostnamong them those connected with churches, have collectednsubstantial amounts of money and supplies. In 1987 therenwas a national campaign aimed at collecting $60 million (onntop of another $40 million already raised in 1986). At thenanti-inauguration concert held in Washington to protest thenBush presidency, Kris Kristofferson sang an ode to thenSandinistas that included the lines, “You have lived up tonyour name . . . May your spirit never die! Hold a candle tonthe darkness! You’re the keeper of the flame!”nDaniel Ortega, on his visit to New York City, wasnhonored at a reception at the Riverside Church (thennpresided over by the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, himself anpilgrim with North Vietnamese as well as Nicaraguanncredentials), and basked in the admiration of the assembledncelebrities, who included Moriey Safer, Betty Friedan,nEugene McCarthy, Bianca Jagger, and Bernardine Dohrn,nformer Weather Underground activist. Ortega also addressednthe congregation of the Park Slope MethodistnChurch in Brooklyn.nThe misconceptions about the Nicaraguan political systemnand its representatives are impressive both on account ofntheir persistence and repetitiveness, and because of thenextraordinary resemblance they bear to those widespread atnearlier times regarding other Communist systems. There is anwillful, cheerful determination to overlook both the conflictingnevidence of the nature of this political system and thenlessons of history.nAccording to Alice Walker, Nicaragua “is a writer’snparadise.” For a professor of philosophy at the University ofnMassachusetts at Amherst (and a frequent visitor), thenNicaraguan government is “honestly committed to the poornand could be a model to other Latin American countries.”nA writer for The Village Voice reported that visitors tonNicaragua experience “a renewal of faith . . . [W]hat Nicaraguangives back to the Internationals [the volunteer workers]nis hope.” A minister from Atlanta found that thenSandinistas “have done some things that as a Christian Invalue very highly. They conducted one of the mostnsensational literacy campaigns in history … it is consistentnwith Christian values to spread health care to rural areas.nThey have given land to peasants. As a Christian I applaudnthat.” Even Vanity Fair found much to praise in Nicaragua,nincluding its first family. Rosario Murillo, spouse of DanielnOrtega, was said to possess “the charm of a revolutionnpeopled by the young, the brave and the good looking.”n(The reader may juxtapose this observation with those ofnJulian Huxley, who paid similar tribute to the “fine physique”nof the Russian people he observed; apparentiy allnwere “solid, robust, healthy” and approximating the Greeknideal of bodily perfection.) But there was more than charmnto Ms. Murillo — “the dreamy poetess who oversees hernfiefdom with an unyielding eye; the egalitarian revolutionarynwho revels in Ralph Lauren, the First Lady of a modest littlencountry” — she was also characterized as “halfway betweennLa Pasionaria [the Spanish Stalinist Communist of then1930’s] and Bianca Jagger.”nRecent political tourists are just as certain as those ofnearlier generations that the citizens of the countries theynhold in high esteem cheerfully accept all hardships in thenjoyous expectation of a better future and because of theirnappreciation of the good intentions of their leaders. GeraldnKaufman, a Labour member of the British Pariiament,nwrote, “the Nicaraguans accept all these hardships . . .nbecause . ; . most citizens realize that their government isndoing its best in exceptionally difficult circumstances, thatnhardships and shortages are fairly shared.”nPresumably these curious perceptions of life in Nicaraguanhave much to do with the determination of the visitors — asnwas the case in the pilgrimages past — to accent the positive.nA director of a theological seminary in California advisednthat it was desirable to try “to discard our U.S. ideologicalnlenses . . . and enter into networks of trust.” He apparentiynwas successful, since he concluded that “Nicaragua hasnachieved more freedom, justice and grass roots democracynthan any of its neighbors (with the exception of Costa Rica)nhas achieved in five hundred years.” Salman Rushdie wasnamong the prominent Western visitors who recorded theirnuniformly favorable impressions in a book celebrating thenNicaraguan government in 1987.nnnJUNE 1989/31n