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Sandinistas and solidarity: the contribution of 1980s brigadistas

NSC News | Thursday, 14 April 2016 |

NSC coffee brigade with MP Chris Smith, 1986

NSC coffee brigade with MP Chris Smith, 1986

As the 1980s recede into history there is an increasing interest in looking back at the global solidarity movement with the Sandinista revolution in the 1980s.

What motivated hundreds of people from Britain and tens of thousands from around the world to visit Nicaragua? What roles did they play in Nicaragua? How were they received by the Nicaraguans? What was their contribution to solidarity with Nicaragua? How did it change their lives?

Around 850 people visited Nicaragua between 1983 and 1990 on study tours, brigades and delegations organised by Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign (NSC). 

The first two British coffee brigades, each consisting of 30 people, went to Nicaragua in December 1985. NSC continued to send on average four coffee, building and environmental brigades a year until 1990. 

In addition, an unknown number of independent volunteers travelled to Nicaragua without being part of an official international brigade. It is impossible to ascertain their numbers, however they are mentioned in numerous first-hand accounts and so their numbers are likely to have been substantial.

Using oral histories obtained through interviews with 18 brigadistas and independent travellers from Britain and the US, this paper by David Lewis is the first to analyse their motivation, involvement and contribution to solidarity with Nicaragua. We gratefully acknowledge his important contribution to our history.

Follow the link to dissertation by David Lewis


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