Sexual struggles in Nicaragua


Sex and the Sandinistas
Written and directed by Lucinda Broadbent
Reviewed by Kim Spurway

This is a must-see documentary about the lives and struggles of gays and lesbians inside the Nicaraguan revolution. Its 25 minutes are packed with humour and insight and are one of the best testimonies to the Sandinistas' achievements I have seen.

Sex and the Sandinistas, the first film by Scottish director Lucinda Broadbent, is the result of four years of close collaboration with the lesbian and gay movement developing there. It is shot entirely by a Nicaraguan crew from the independent video production company Videonic.

The video relies on the personal experiences of Sandinista gay and lesbian activists. Lupita Sequeira began making Molotov cocktails in her back room at the age of 14, keeping both her involvement with the FSLN and her sexuality a secret from her parents. Alfonso Monterosa first discovered his sexuality at the gay men's beat at Managua's cathedral. And Walleska Guitierrez tells of running away to join the national liberation struggle at the age of 13 and of her undercover lesbian relationships in uniform.

In 1987 a small group of lesbians and gay men formed an educational project to teach Nicaraguans about AIDS. Initially they encountered official disapproval, with a number of them being dismissed from the army and the FSLN.

The group approached the minister for public health about their AIDS education work and were given enthusiastic support. They started not just to talk about safer sex and the AIDS crisis but to initiate a discussion on the politics of sexuality and lesbian and gay politics.

Under the repressive Somoza dictatorship, there was no space to think about this. "Who can start to reflect about gay politics when you are afraid for your life? The triumph gave us the political space", Lupita says.

In the film ex-president Daniel Ortega discusses the attitude to gays and lesbians in Nicaragua and the prevalence of "machista" prejudice. It also shows the gay and lesbian community taking sex education into the streets and onto the buses of Managua in the Popular Education Collective's campaign.

The return of the right wing in the form of the UNO government and the resulting return to the "precepts of the Catholic Church" have led to the collective disassociating itself from the present Health Ministry. It also has resulted in the use of police squads to harass and arrest gays and lesbians.

The film finishes with a plea for international support for the Sandinistas: now more than ever they need solidarity. The FSLN is currently reassessing and renewing itself and in the process there is even more space for lesbians, gays and feminists to move the Frente forward. As Rita explains, "We are all committed to the and part of our contribution is to educate the Sandinistas about gay and lesbian politics".