Idania Fernandez

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Idania Fernandez in Panama c.1976

Idania de Los Angeles Fernandez, born July 23, 1952 in Managua, Nicaragua, assassinated in captivity in Leon, Nicaragua April 16, 1979. One of the most cherished martyrs of the Nicaraguan Revolution. Scholars in US universities have placed her name next to Camilo Torres Restrepo,[1] Che Guevara, José Martí [1] in that they shared a profound sensitivity toward injustice.

Legacy[edit]

Religious books[2] and works of columnists and editorials [3] have been dedicated to her memory. Works of testimonial literature like Adios Muchachos (Spanish), by Sergio Ramirez,[4] and We are all awake by Margaret Randall,[5] cite as an example of life. Until today her memory as such is recalled frequently in speeches and editorials in Nicaragua.[6]

  • ref Pascher, Camilo & Idania[7]
  • ref. Pascher. Revolutionaries, Prof. Sensitivity[8]
  • ref Campos, J. El Mostrador[9]
  • Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Revelation: Vision of a Just World[10]
  • Seibel, M. Dallas Morning News.
  • Baltodano, R. El Nuevo Diario[11]
  • Baltodano, M. Rebelion[12]
  • Sergio Ramirez, manuscripts[13]

The early years[edit]

The second of five children. Lived her early years in Leon, Nicaragua. She was 3 years old when her family moved to the neighborhood of Subtiava,[14] in the outskirts of Leon. Her birthday coincides with the anniversary of the Somoza's National Guard massacre on college students marching on the streets of Leon in 1956. This is, each birthday of her life was a reminder of Students Martyrs, for it was a day off in schools in Nicaragua by decree. She lived in Managua between age six and ten. In 1962 her family moved to the town of Jinotega. On Sunday family outings visited San Rafael del Norte and other surrounding towns in the mountains that witnessed Gen. Augusto César Sandino zaga in the 1930s.

Education[edit]

Returning to Managua, finished Elementary and High school at the French School of the Sacred Heart between 1965 and 1972,[15] the same school attended by prominent personalities in Nicaragua today including ex-President of Nicaragua, Violeta Chamorro.[16]

From Catholic to revolutionary[edit]

Idania Fernandez in Panama c.1974.

Idania developed organizational and leadership skills as a member of the group "Las Metanoias"[17] in Senior High School. The group made spiritual retreat trips to hacienda El Tepeyac,[15] near Mombacho Volcano and Lake Nicaragua for study and discussions on the Liberation Theology. Idania turned an ardent activist and represented her school among a broad base of organizations engaged in demonstrations demanding the release of political prisoners in 1971–1972. Her activities won her a slap on the face from Sister Nicolle, the school Director, who actually feared for Idania's fate.[18]

In 1973, her family moved to Panama and she started her college education in Economics at the University of Panama. Resumed activism joining the Solidarity Committees in support of the Sandinista Liberation Front prisoners. In 1974 She married David Miranda, a Panamanian-Nicaraguan student of Economics also. In August 1975 she gave birth to daughter Claudia, named after Claudia Chamorro another Sandinista fallen years earlier.

Reunion with the Sandinista leadership[edit]

Idania Fernandez c.Aug 1978 and Dora Maria Tellez in training Rep. Of Panama at the house of Luis Del Cid chief of the Panamenian Army

Following the successful Sandinista operatives at the Chema Castillo's residence in the 1974 Christmas party with attendance of dictator Somoza's Elite, Idania had the opportunity she longed for so long. She was finally able to meet personally the Sandinistas she fought so hard for their release since her school days, upon their arrival to Panama.

Because Idania had residence in Panama since 1973, and many friends, she helped in the logistics to provide accommodations and supplies to the Sandinistas; so much, that she donated her personal belongings (furniture, appliances, books, etc.) to the safe houses in Panama where the Sandinistas were staying. It did not take long for Idania to fit perfectly in the "organization" (as they used to call the Sandinista National Liberation Front in Panama where they enjoyed medium security environment.

Idania was considered to participate in the spectacular raid at the National Government Palace in 1978, taking 3000 hostages, which resulted in the release of several Sandinistas in captivity. Ultimately; Dora María Téllez was chosen, the only woman in the operative, named after Rigoberto López Pérez.

Military training[edit]

In 1978 following the popular insurrection in Monimbo, Masaya, 78), Idania decided to join full time the ranks of the FSLN Command in Panama and Costa Rica, where she frequently met with members of the "Direccion Nacional", the highest ranking of that organization. She trained in Cuba in rocket launching in the middle of 1978. General Omar Torrijos, and the people of Panama, did not like the Somoza dictatorship and offered logistic support to the Sandinistas and also military training in the Province of Chiriqui (Panama) and she also trained there among other young cadres.

Wounded in the Southern Front[edit]

Idania wounded in the Southern Front, September 1978

Between 1975 and 1978 Idania made trips to Nicaragua and Costa Rica on clandestine missions, including one trip to the Northern Front and different operatives, but in September 1978 she was wounded in combat on the left hand in Nicaragua near the southern border. She was taken initially to a Costa Rican hospital near the border, and her pictures appeared in Costa Rican newspapers front page referring to her only as "Angela", respecting her identity. Fearing for her security at the Hospital, Sergio Ramirez's wife picked her up and took her to a Sandinista makeshift hospital in Nicaragua near the border.[19]

Upon her return to Panama, the Panamanian military had assigned Secret Service security personnel to high ranking or identifiable Sandinistas including Idania. She could no longer use her real name or passport on her missions to Nicaragua either, or visit public places in Panama without escort. She was also required to carry a high caliber Magnum pistol in her purse at all times, which she did.[20]

After a number of spontaneous uprisings in Monimbo, Matagalpa, Estelí and other cites, where the Sandinistas were forced to fight in support of the people's uprising, rather than the opposite, a major shift in Sandinista strategy was developed. In order to take the lead of the Insurrection, two major Insurrectional Commands were organized; the Frente Interno in Managua and the Western command in the city of Leon. Idania was assigned to the newly formed Western Insurrectional Command, which required experience with the communities and base organizations ("trabajo de barrios"), worker unions, students, religious groups and organizing the neighborhoods for the final offensive.[19]

Plans for a final insurrection and a new government junta[edit]

In February 1979, Omar Torrijos, head of the Panamenian government invited the Grupo de Los Doce, prominent Nicaraguan businessmen backing up the Sandinistas, for talks in Panama. By this time, arms shipments from Venezuela and Cuba were under way. Dr. Joaquin Cuadra, a member of Los Doce and whose son Joaquin Cuadra, leader of the Frente Interno Sandinista Command, was in Nicaragua, invited Idania and Oscar Perez Cassar for the talks and dinner. Idania and Oscar were also members of the Frente Interno, and scheduled to go back to Nicaragua via Honduras, to assume the leadership of the Western Regional Command for the final Insurrection. Sergio Ramirez, also a member of Los Doce and a member of the upcoming Government Junta, relates that Idania attended with her hand still bandaged from surgery after her wounds in September.[19][20]

In March 1979, Idania went back to Nicaragua to resume her new post in the Western Regional Command, the leading Commando of the Insurrection, and was prepared to stay indefinitely until victory or death, as a member of the ill-fated Insurrectional Command "Rigoberto López Pérez" headed by Dora Maria Tellez. In late 1978 the Somoza's National Guard had been killing the population without mercy in the towns of Leon, Masaya, Estelí by aerial bombing, reported by the Red Cross.[21] That was too much to bear for the Sandinistas. It was about time to finish the Somoza's regime.[22]

The Swan Over the Burning Coals[edit]

Title chosen by Sergio Ramirez for the chapter of his book "Adios Muchachos" dedicated to the memory of the events the day that shook the entire City of Leon, specially, and the rest of the country. On April 16, 1979 the Sandinista war was escalating fast. Combats were taking place in more than twenty cities in Nicaragua. However; most of the leaders of the soon to be Revolutionary Government were in Costa Rica or Panama in safe houses. Their role was to provide the military strategy, negotiations with foreign governments and sketching a plan for the new an imminent Nicaraguan Government Junta. The war was actually run in the field by five Regional Commands. The most important ones were the Western Command based in the City of Leon and the Frente Interno, based in Managua. They were considered critical for a fast victory. The Regional Commands had the future of Nicaragua at hand.

On that day, the Members of the Western Regional Command integrated by Oscar Perez Cassar, Idania Fernandez, Araceli Perez Darias, Ana Isabel Morales, Edgard Lang Sacasa, Roger Deshon Arguello and Carlos Manuel Jarquin were in session in a safe house in the suburbs of Leon. The National Guard was attacking heavily the City of Estelí, near the mountains and they were coordinating the efforts to help them. Reportedly, there was a whistleblower, a supposedly former Sandinista militia who turned police informant. The informant and eighty members of the National Guard, in jeeps and tanks, surrounded the block, and stormed into the house. The Sandinistas had no chance to escape or to grab their weapons. Ana Isabel put an apron on, grabbed a child form an adjacent house, and passed herself off as a domestic. She was the only survivor. The informant identified positively the men as important cadre, but he argued not knowing the women. So, all men were executed on the spot, Idania and Araceli were arrested, taken to the Fortin of Acosasco, tortured and murdered.[5][23]

The aftermath[edit]

Thousands attended their funeral. The entire city of Leon (not to mention the Sandinista ranks at all levels) was enraged. The Somoza government refused to return Araceli's (who was Mexican) remains to her family. Idania's parents and two youngest sisters were living in Dallas, Texas, and contacted the Dallas Morning News. The paper dedicated a full page article on the events in the Sunday edition. Edgard Lang Sacasa was 23 and he was the son of a first cousin to dictator Somoza and a friend of a Wall Street Journal columnist, and this prompted an editorial.

Soon after, as expected, the city of Leon street fighters headed by Dora Maria Tellez, Idania's comrade, increased greaty in numbers and firepower. In June the victory over the Somoza forces in Leon was complete, followed by Managua, two weeks later, and the Somoza regime went with it.

The Legacy[edit]

"I leave you an example of life, mine", wrote Idania to her daughter in her farewell letters. Reprinted in Margaret Randall's book Todas Estamos Despiertas.[24] and many columnists' and editorial pages in Nicaragua countless times over the last twenty nine years.[25] Ernesto Cardenal, Sergio Ramirez and other dissidents of the Sandinistas often quote Idania's writings and ideals. This is a true legacy and probably the best.

After her death, Idania firepower increased thousandfold. In 1984, at the peak of the Contra war, one of the largest battalions of the Sandinista People's Army (Ejército Popular Sandinista), dispatched to the Northern Front to fight the Contras, was named after her.

Occasionally, they name a nursery or police station after Idania but there are no monuments or statues for her in Nicaragua. She would probably have liked it this way. We have seen so many statues fall in world history, but an example of life lasts forever.[26][27][28][29]

References[edit]

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