Blog: History

Ferdinand VII

d. 1833

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Vasco Núñez de Balboa

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Balboa was a regular Spaniard living in the large Caribbean island Hispaniola, attempting a life as a farmer and having gotten into significant debt, who snuck aboard a boat bound for conquest under the flag of King Ferdinand of Spain. He was escaping his debt and hopefully paying it off with won riches. His boarding the boat took place by him hiding in a wooden barrel with his war dog Leoncito, who plays a small role in his story as a vicious and useful member of the conquistador force, as war dogs commonly were. The leader of the boat was also his debtor, who he confronted and was accepted by as a member of the mission. They were initially trying to make conquests in northern Colombia (around what is now Cartagena, but was then the newly founded settlement of San Sebastian de Uraba in Nueva Andalucia). The natives there were very hostile, however, and used poison arrows, and Balboa suggested they try someplace easier, namely moving the settlement of San Sebastian to Darien (Panama), which they did.

After the initial victory in the what the Spanish made to be the settlement of Santa Maria la Antigua del Darian (in Panama), Balboa became leader of the Spanish. He had become popular with the crew earlier, for his personality, his knowledge of the area they were sailing, the time they all spent together in battles against the poison-arrow wielding indians of Colombia while waiting for their leader to return from Hispaniola after being injured in the leg. And now, the popular Balboa took leadership from Enciso as alcalde mayor by legal means. Because Enciso was actually on a mission for a leader who controlled a different part of the Spanish Caribbean territory, his mandate in Darien was illegitimate, and 'should be' arrested. Balboa acted as spokesperson in this action, and was afterwards elected as one of two alcaldes there (the other was Martin Samudio, who doesn't play a role in this story). There was almost another change in government when those actually entitled to rule that part of the Carbbean heard about the action's of Balboa at al, and vowed to punish him and take over, but they weren't allowed to set foot on land by the mob that appeared to greet them, and the unseaworthy boat, ill-supplied, was not heard from again.

Balboa's leadership was cemented when, while he was away attacking another village, the malcontents in his party who were left behind formed an insurrection in order to appropriate the large quantity of gold they had all won, and distribute it among them. The leader of this insurrection, however, wanted a greater portion for himself, and this led to dissatisfaction with his leadership, and recalled the usefulness of Balboa as leader, who had been fair in distribution of spoils. Balboa was passing his refuge away from the village with a party of his supporters in the jungle, and when the envoy from the settlement reached him to ask him to return as leader, and swore to obey him as leader thereafterward, he initially acted like he didn't want to go back to the thankless job, but after seeing a letter about how he was being tried as a criminal against the crown in Spain, he did return (is that the letter or am I forgetting?)

This led him to undertake the mission he is famous in history for. They had discovered by chance, from one of the offhand remarks of one of the princes they were dealing with, of a very gold-rich land to the south, which they could reach by "the other sea." Balboa sent for more men to undertake this mission (he had been told by the prince that he would need at least 1000 men), and Balboa sent a request to Spain but these didn't come. Since his case was being heard in Spain and to his disfavor, he now (it was September 1513) made the journey of about 68 miles (110 km) across the Panamanian Isthmus, making battle here and there with various tribes. The journey all in all took 24 days to reach the mountain where he saw the South Sea, then another 5 days down to the coast, encountering with his band of 100 Spanish soldiers (accompanied by 1000 indian carriers, and not counting his other 90 soldiers he left in a defeated village to provide him with an escape route if later necessary), overwhelming them easily with the combined power of war dogs, fire arms, crossbows, swords, and plate armor, losing only a couple of men killed or injured. He reached the coast after dispatching three parties of 12 of his men first (the first man to enter the then-called "South Sea" was one of these men. He claimed the ocean for the Spanish crown. They arrived September 29 and named the place San Miguel. Because they had travelled south to the new sea, he named it "The South Sea." The tribes living there were respectful of his superior power, and gave him all the gold and pearls they had, showing him where more could be found. In return they were happy to receive European shirts, glass beads, etc., which had more value to them than gold and pearls, which had barely any value. He conquered a few villages to the south on the coast, then tried to push on to the islands of pearls nearby, but was canoe-wrecked right away since it was the season of storms, and returned back to the beach. He took a different route back to Antigua, and on the way back to the Spanish settlement, laden with so much gold and pearls the party wasn't able to carry enough food and water (and some died of this along the way), they encountered other tribes which fled or put up little fights.

Meanwhile, back is Spain, the public matter of Balboa's actions had been discussed for about a year (I think), since some enemies of his returned and charged him with illegally taking control of Darien (Panama and northern Columbia today). He was seen in the light of criminal, which was a strong impetus for his finally leaving the Caribbean coast where he had established his local power (the site of a preexisting tribe's village, composed now of 200 straw-thatched huts, 500 Spaniards, and 1500 indians, growing richly with gardens of produce, the site of his first conquest, where he had married the daughter of the local ruler in his hut after the day's battle, and by accounts was basically in love with her) to find for Spain the farther ocean, which none had yet found (at the same time, Magellan was circumnavigating the globe, travelling down the Atlantic Coast of South American, rounding Patagonia northwards a little, but then directing himself Westward to the Pacific Islands and then Indonesia, and it wasn't until half a century later in the 1570s the English sea captain Drake sailed around South America from the easternmost point of Brazil and around and north all the way to California (or perhaps Canada, we don't know the details of his secret mission for Queen Elizabeth).

However, Balboa was now able to dispatch to the queen a couple of his men, laden with the fifth of gold entitled to the King, the largest and best of the pearls, and news of Balboa's "great discovery" and claiming for Spain the South Sea, and opinion of how to frame Balboa as a Spaniard changed.

Now Darian shone with a new light to Spaniards, too. It was now to be referred to as the "Golden Castile," (before that it was being called "New Andalusia") and since for Europeans gold was the driving purpose for activity in the New World, that for which they went, which they volunteered, braved risks, fought, died, and killed for, which purchased peace with the native tribes, which purchased favor in the Spanish court, which was the subject of conversation in Spain,

Before Balboa's own emissary could reach the king with his gifts and story, Kind Ferdinand had spent 50,000 crowns on a mission there, in which there were to be 2,000 soldiers with arms, equipment and money, and a person more fit in the eyes of the king to take over control of the realm instead of Balboa. (Also religious men, and an order that no lawyers should be permitted to practice there, however one lawyer did go, as alcalde mayor (chief judge), Gaspar de Espinosa.

When Pedrarias (the man appointed by the king to rule Darian) arrived, he found the present leader, Balboa, overseeing the rethatching of his fairly humble straw house, rather than seated in golden opulence.

In the months that followed, Balboa was imprisoned by Pedrarias and in all events that followed Balboa was nothing but meek and subservient to all sources of authority, at length protesting to the priest who on his behalf arranged a marriage to Pedrarias' and his wife Dona Isabel's eldest daughter by signing an contract (the daughter was in Spain) and sending for her to solemnize the wedding when she arrived. Through this a peace was formed, which may have benefited Pedrarias as Balboa's potential future achievements would serve both.

During this time, King Ferdinand had sent a messenger with news that he had made Balboa adelandtado of the great South Sea, and governor of the provinces of Coyba and Panama, while Pedrarias was left governor of the Caribbean side, with a note that in this position Pedrarias was to expand the king's interests as befitted his position. Balboa's position, however, while he had been placed over the valuable lands while Pedrarias' were fairly valueless, was subject to the authority of Pedrarias, and Balboa agreed to a term with Pedrarias whereby Balboa would not exercise the authority he had without approval of Pedrarias.

During this time, other envoys were sent out to the tribes, but these did not find the easy victories Balboa's first encounters had had. Many were defeated and returned defeated, among some victories. Balboa, too, when he was released and allowed to undertake another mission (to construct ships, assemble them on the Pacific, and sail south to the land of riches many tribes had told him about) met with his first defeat to the natives. In this defeat, he had a co-commander appointed by Pedrarias, who died by a spear to the chest while Cortez was only injured after a force of indians attacked their canoes in their own canoes, and many drowned when the indians plunged in the water to overturn their boats, or died from the arrows of the indians. The natives also attacked and harried the land in and around the Spanish settlements, so that people lived in fear of their houses all being burned down. Indian chiefs united in some cases to drive the Spanish out of their lands. In part this was said to be due to the behavior of the Spanish, worse than Balboas, with regard to torture and taking of women and children.

The 2,000 Spanish who came brought a good amount of provisions, but a large portion were found to have rotted, and a serious famine was felt in the settlement. 700 died. Some others left for Cuba in a boat. Others returned to Spain. Others hired themselves out as laborers to eat, and could be seen selling their last valuables in the streets. All without ever starting on any missions or using the weapons and equipment they had brought.

The means by which Pedrarias was able to get rid of Balboa finally was this: Another governor had been dispatched from Spain to take over for Pedrarias (not sure about 'take over'), but died in the harbor. Balboa was not sure where he sat in all these changes, because if the new leader took over for Pedrarias, the new leader's favorites might be appointed to take over instead of Balboa. He therefore sent a messenger back to get a clear picture of what was going on in the settlement. He chose a man who he had long served with but who, according to the stories, bore him a grudge because while paying court to Balboa's indian princess wife was seen by Balboa and reprimanded. When this man, one Garabito. A condition of Balboa's marriage to the governor's daughter was that he cut off relations with his indian wife, which Balboa had of course agreed to. However, when Garabito was apprehended in Antigua and treated as a spy, he let slip that Cacita (the princess who had still not returned to her father, perhaps partly because she may have been viewed as a traitoress after betraying her brother, who had been trying to save her before the impeding planned attack of Balboa's first settlement, into torture at Balboa's hands, in which he was forced to relate the entire military strategy, which was then foiled by a preventative attack by the Spaniards)... that Balboa had sent for her to come to the Pacific. The idea was that Balboa was setting up his own station of government there, which doesn't seem likely to be true, but was true enough for Pedrarias, who charged him with treason (punishable by death). When Cacita was questioned she confirmed it. A message was sent to the coast to Balboa that he come to Antigua, and although he questioned the messengers, they did not tell him what was going on there, and despite the protests of his men, he went. He was put in shackles immediately by Pizarro (who had also long served under him), tried, and executed, along with four of his men who had participated in warning or supporting Balboa.

He was executed (decapitated) in 1519 at age 43 or 44. He had been by that time ten years in the Darian, having left Hispaniola in 1509, and it had been six years since he discovered the South Sea. By the time he left Hispaniola in 1509, however, he already had experience in conquest and sailing around the Caribbean, as he had crossed from Spain in 1501 on a treasure-finding mission for the king, and it was with his share of this mission that he had settled as a farmer in Hispaniola.

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The History of the Spanish Language

The Phonecians gave a name to the peninsula which is today Spain and Portugal with the word "I-shpan-ha," which is thought to have meant "land or island of hydraxes," as those people might have confused hydraxes (which they called "shpan") with rabbits, which are common in Iberia. Romans, who began their conquest of the region during the Second Punic War in 210 BC, continued to use the same word, "Hispania," and elsewhere did refer to Spain as "the land of rabbits." There is even a coin from Hadrian's rule that includes a rabbit in the same way the Egyptian coin bears an Ibis. "Iberia" was the Greek word for the same place, so the words can be used interchangeably.

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Before the Romans came to Hispania, several languages were spoken in various areas (called "paleohispanic languages"), including the languages of the Iberians, Basques, Celtiiberians and Gallaecians, some of which languages were related distantly to Latin through Indo-European language roots, while others weren't related at all. From these neighbour languages some words remain today in Spanish, such as the Celtic "camino," "carro," "colmena," and "cervesa" and the Celt suffixes "-iego" and "ego," while many place names, surnames and common words such as "izquierda" come from Basque (although many of the place names entered the language during the Reconquista, in which many Basques took part, a millennia after the first "Spanish" was spoken in Iberia).

The speakers of the first "Spanish" were those who in this Roman colony spoke one of the dialects of Roman Latin that came to be used there. Through the course of historic events, the particular dialect that came to spread over all of Spain was the one spoken in central Iberia around Toledo, in the Kingdom of Castille, but that didn't happen until around 800 years after the fifth-century breakup of the Roman Empire.

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Early, "Spanish" was just one of the prodigious children of Roman Latin, some of which still live today in more developed forms, including Italian, with is today very similar to Spanish, the two languages sharing most of their vocabulary and grammar and the Latin phonemic system. For example, while today's Spanish is 20% distant from Roman Latin, Italian is only 12% distant (and Sardinian is 8% distant, all according to the linguist Pei), and speakers of Romance languages share a high level of mutual intelligibility: Spanish has around 89% intelligibility with Portuguese, 82% with Italian, and around 73% with French, having a much higher degree of intelligibility when read than when spoken, demonstrating that much of the difference is phonological.

In 711 the Muslim conquest of Spain began, succeeding in most of the peninsula for hundreds of years, during which time the majority of the Christian population (which mostly remained Christian, although many of those who wanted a place in the powerful parts of the society controlling the land were more enthusiastic about the Muslim faith and conversions) spoke a mix of the preexisting Latin and Arabic (a mix we call "Mozarabic") until the 11th century, and today 8% of Spanish is Arabic in origin (around 4,000 words), including common words like "aceite," "zanahoria," "azul," "azúcar,"technical words (such as those describing irrigation, "atarjea," "acequia," "arcaduz," and "aljibe,") scientific words such as "algebra," and titles such as "alcalde." In addition to the Latin-Arabic mixed language, a large population spoke a Latin-Judean language ("Ladino"). Both of these languages had vanished by the 16th century, but that the population spoke a mixed/bilingual language like this is considered to have facilitated the transfer of vocabulary from Arabic to Spanish.

The Reconquista spread the language of the kingdom of Castile over the bulk of Iberia, partly through poems and songs about the heroes of these great battles and adventures (including those by El Cid in the 11th Century).

A big push towards the Castilianization of Iberia took place in the 13th Century under King Alfonso X ("Alfonso the Wise") who assembled scribes in his court and tasked them with writing works on history, astronomy, law, and other subjects of interest. Writing continued to enforce Castillian Spanish between the 13th and 16th centuries from Toledo, and after that from Madrid.

It was during this time that Germanic sailors influenced Castille to replace their "septentrion," "oriente," "meridion," and "occidente," with "norte," "este," "sur," and "oeste," (although Germanic words don't feature very large at all in Spanish) as this was a time when ocean voyages were increasing. While the first Castillian grammar book was written in Salamanca and presented to Queen Isabella I, Cristóbal Colón was beginning his 1492 mission to sail west to Asia.

In the New World, Spaniards adopted from American peoples or created new a variety of words, and from the neighbouring Romance languages they were more frequently exposed to, including that of Renaissance Italy, they also received some new vocabulary. From the Americas, new things meant new words, such as "tomate," "aguacate," "mosquito," "cigar," as well as other novel flora, fauna, and cultural concepts.

The solidification of Spanish began in earnest, we might say, in 1713 with the first founding of the Spanish Royal Academy, built for the purpose of standardizing the Castillian language with its publications of dictionaries and grammars that continue to this day. There is one such academy in every Spanish country, held together by the Association of Spanish Language Academies that was created in 1951.

Today Spanish adds new words from its own technical and popular culture, although it has been remarked that for its size, Spanish does not feature prominently in any scientific writing outside of the humanities (social sciences, medical sciences, and arts and humanities making up 75% of scientific production in Spanish), while Spanish literature, on the other hand, continues to feature large in the world.

These days, Spanish also adds to its around 100,000 real-use words from English, which is also adding to its 200,000 real-use words, mostly with new technological, sports, commercial, and pop vocabulary.

Thus the participants in the Spanish language include Basque, Iberian, Celtiberian, Phoenician, Roman Latin, Greek (much through the Roman, but also for scientific terms especially beginning around the 13th Century), Visigothic, Arabic, Hebrew, French and other Romance languages, German, Quechua, Nahuatl, other American languages, and English.

Read later: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/56490/56490-h/56490-h.htm#Page_363

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William Walker

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May 8, 1824 in Nashville, Tennessee – September 12, 1860 in Trujillo, Honduras, by firing squad at age 36.

By age 25, he had studied, graduated and practices medicine, studied and practiced law, and worked as a co-owner and editor of a newspaper on the East Coast before moving to California. Walker is noted to have engaged in three duels with guns, one with a notorious Wild West gunman after he insulted him in the paper he was editor of in San Francisco. During these years before beginning his enterprises in Latin America, Walker was involved in owning and running a newspaper.

In 1953, he set out to conquer lands in Latin America, first in Mexico (and took over some of sparsely-populated Baja) with 45 men, and then after retreating in fear of the Mexican government, he was tried in California for waging an illegal war but was acquitted by jury of his very popular act in 8 minutes.

In 1854, Walker went with an army to Nicaragua to aid one of the contending (and warring) political parties ("The Democrats," who were fighting "The Legitimists") as a hired army. Nicaragua had been in a civil war for decades at this time. Also notable was that Vanderbilt (the first "tycoon" of America) owned transport the San Juan river that was the main route for goods and travellers (an alternative to Panama) in the country, linking the Caribbean and the Pacific with the lake in the middle.

William Walker's book, "War in Nicaragua" written before 1860

Didn't take notes from the first 180 pages. I might go back and do that at some point.

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There was a longstanding civil war in Nicaragua before Walker and his (150?) men were hired by one of the contending political parties, "The Democrats" who were the liberal party based in Leon. The Americans landed near San Juan del Sur (I think in El Gigante because they couldn't safely enter the San Juan bay). Their first fight came shortly thereafter, after a march to Rivas. After several battles, consisting of a few hundred participants each, the American and "Democratic" force defeated the force of the rival political party called "The Legitimists." Conflict continued to a degree.

Costa Rica declared war against the Americans in Nicaragua specifically. Costa Rica then caught the troops in Santa Rosa Guanacaste, unawares in an afternoon attack, and routed them. The army was depressed, many left or wanted to leave for America. Walker was preparing for a war with Costa Rica that the other three Central American states were likely to join Costa Rica against the Americans. The main strength of the army was moved to Rivas.

Although significantly dispirited, the Americans were able to add to their forces with new recruits making the passage between San Juan del Norte and San Juan del Sur (from the Caribbean to the Pacific). He added a couple of hundred that way. Also, it was proven that the large Costa Rican force was inferior to the American force combined with the ravages of disease. Various strains of Cholera were killing and laying low people everywhere in outbreaks. (The Americans had been attacked by a strain, Walker thought the probably the same strain, at Virgin Bay. He noted that "the spasms of this form of the disease are not so violent as those of the Asiatic cholera, nor does the patient sink so rapidly.) After their defeat by the Americans, the Costa Ricans (now many sick): "Its fatal effects were increased in the Costa Rican camp by the general depression of spirits which pervaded the officers as well as the men after they saw the results of the first conflict with the enemy they had come to drive, as they imagined, by easy marches, and by the mere force of their numbers, out of Central America."

At that juncture in his story, Walker comments that, "To destroy an old political organization is a comparatively easy task, and little besides force is requisite for its accomplishment; but to build up and re-constitute society -- to gather the materials from the four quarters, and construct them into an harmonious whole, fitted for the uses of a new civilization -- requires more than force, more even than genius for the work, and agents with which to complete it. Time and patience, as well as skill and labor, are needed for success; and they who undertake it, must be willing to devote a lifetime to the work."

The Provisional President moved to Leon, in large part to establish friendly relations with San Salvador (a place called "Cojutepeque" was where the San Salvador cabinet resided) but the commission to Cojutepeque was met with coldness and a statement was issued that "the presence of the Americans in Nicaragua threatened the independence of Central America." The tone was received as very insulting. But the tone of San Salvador became more peaceful when word reached them the Costa Ricans had retreated from Rivas. But soon news came that Guatemala was preparing troops to march on Nicaragua.

Walker was in Masaya when he received letters about events in Leon, where Rivas' government was. According to Walker's story, the military governor there had asked the Americans to guard an arms and ammunition storehouse, and when they were guarding it the government officials left their building hastily and rode through the streets proclaiming that the Americans were about to take Rivas prisoner and assassinate the ministers and chief men of the city. Restless locals took up arms. Rivas left the city, reportedly. The Americans prepared for a fight. Rivas was almost apprehended by American soldiers called to Leon on the road and thought the politicians making this movement was suspicious, but the American soldier in charge was counselled not to because "it would not be proper for a simple lieutenant to arrest the President and one of his Ministers." Walker left for Leon when notified. Rivas and his company were preparing to fight in Chinadega. Walker, not sure how many local leaders were going to ally with Rivas, planned to wait the arrival of his other forces and then formally march on Granada which then happened.

In Granada, Walker (at that time his title was 'general-in-chief') published a decree re-constructing the provisional government by virtue of an existing treaty that made it so naturalized Nicaraguans got equality of privileges with the native born, which President Rivas was not advocating. Walker then made a statement that he was denying the existing Provisional Government: after citing the 'unconstitutional crimes' of the government, he stated "With such accumulated crimes--conspiring against the very people it was bound to protect--the late provisional government was no longer worthy of existence. In the name of the people I have, therefore, declared its dissolution, and have organized a provisional government, until the nation exercises its natural right of electing its own rulers." Walker installed a new provisional president until the vote.

A few weeks later an election was held, "the voting was general in the Oriental and Meridional Departments" but other places didnt vote because some were controlled by Rivas (who was in Chinadega) and the Guatemalans had already entered Nicaragua in the north (the "Occidental Department"). The new provisional president declared the win for Walker, who had received "a large majority of the votes."

Walker was inaugurated on July 12, and his cabinet formed (a Minister of Relations, a Minister of War, a MInister of Hacienda and Public Credit). The government resided in Granada.

Two of the first things that happened after his inauguration. 1) A Costa Rican schooner, the San Jose, was seized in San Juan del Sur and condemned by a court for using the American flag and forfeited to the government of Nicaragua and converted into a schooner-of-war and armed with cannons. 2) he began diplomatic relations with an American Minister who had just arrived to do so (although the American government had thought Rivas was in charge when they dispatched him).

A few more arrivals of a hundred or so American men each arrived, one of them in Leon which was barricaded by Guatemalan forces.

To be continued ...

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The preface to Walker's book


Cast of Characters, countries and Locations:

The National War of Nicaragua, as was called the contest between Nicaragua's two political parties in the 1800s, which were the liberal government (called "Democrats" and based in Leon, led at the time by Patricio Rivas) and the conservative government (called "the Legitimists" and based in Granada and led by ?? at the time). This contest often broke out into violence (ie civil war) in the 1840s and 1850s. It was part of this contest that the "Democrats" invited Walker to help them in 1955. Walker succeeded in defeating the conservative forces and made Patricio Rivas president. This civil war is not to be confused with the Nicaraguan civil war of 1926–1927.

Patricio Rivas, leader of the "Democrats," the liberal party in Nicaragua, based in Leon, engaged in civil war with conservative party, hired Walker and his force to defeat the conservatives party.

The Rifles - how the American forces under Walker in Nicaragua were called as a group. Walker arrived with (150?) men, but added to his forces several times as more Americans arrived, mostly in batches of a hundred or so as they crossed the San Juan Rivers between the Caribbean and the Pacific. They quickly became the most powerful (and main) military force in Nicaragua. Locals, according to Walker, were not interested in becoming soldiers for the civil war, and would rather do just about anything than fight with rifles. In this way, the American force was viewed by Walker as relieving the burden of conscripted fighting from the locals.

The Costa Ricans, the first force to enter Nicaragua (from the south) after the success of the American forces in the Nicaraguan civil war, after declaring war on Americans in Nicaragua while Rivas was still president. After initially routing the Americans in a surprise attack, their much larger force (over 1000? men), many of them having been infected with Cholera while in Nicaragua, fled after defeats by the American force. At the time, Costa Rica was led by President Juan Rafael Mora.

The Guatemalans, the second force to enter Nicaragua (from the north) to attack the Americans, who by then had elected Walker as president. At the time, Guatemala was led by President José Rafael Carrera Turcios (Rafael Carrera).

Contextual events of the era: Caste War of the Yucatan, American Civil War, liberals attempts to overthrow the Catholic Church and aristocrats power, Mexico Wars, boundary dispute between Belize and England, caudillos.

Previous to the Nicaraguan Civil War: Following the period of dramatic discovery and exploration in the New World in the first decades of the 1500s, the period of conquest began. In 1538, Spain created in its new territory the "Viceroyalty of New Spain" which included all of what is now Mexico and Central America except Panama. In 1570 this political entity was split and the southern half called the "Captaincy General of Guatemala." The land now known as Nicaragua belonged to this, and was at the time a group of administrative regions with its capital in Leon. (It was in 1610 that this "old" Leon was destroyed by the eruption of the volcano Momotombo, and afterwards Leon was reconstructed north of the original site). Between 1570 and 1821, the region had minor civil wars and rebellions which were subdued easily by the Spanish government there, as well as being the days of pirate raids, of which there were lots. Then in 1821 the land changed politically, first becoming part of the First Mexican Empire that year, then in 1823 part of the United Provinces of Central America, and in 1838 it became the independent republic of Nicaragua. From this point the rivalry between the two political parties in the country lead us to our subject with Walker.

The east of the country, the Caribean Coast or "Mosquito Cost" based on the town of Bluefields, has a separate political history from the western side of the land. Even today most of what happens in Nicaragua is all on the west side, where the biggest cities (and now the Pan American Highway) are, not only in Nicaragua but in Costa Rica to the south and El Salvador and Honduras to the north as well. There is a large space of mostly uninhabited land between this populated part and the Caribbean Coast. The Mosquito Coast was claimed by the UK between 1655 and 1838, then was designated to Honduras in 1859 and transferred to Nicaragua in 1860. But even after becoming part of Nicaragua in 1860 is remained autonomous until 1894. The Caribbean side doesn't feature much in our story, taking place around 1855: However, San Juan del Norte, the Caribbean end of the San Juan Rivers route between the two oceans, is in the south of Nicaragua on the Caribbean side.

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The dedication in his book

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Hong Kong 2019

It's nice to follow one story of current history. In 2014 I followed the civil war in South Sudan starting on December 15, 2013 when it first broke out. Since the start, both sides blamed the other and told their own accounts of events.

South Sudan was at the time "the world's youngest nation," a nation created by the U.S. when it helped split the south of the former country of Sudan into its own state, and for a couple of years South Sudan was considered to be a nice American triumph. The country called (just) Sudan now is the northern part, Muslim. The southern part, South Sudan, is Christian (and anamist). South Sudan had two large ethnicities, the Dinka (presisdent Kiir) and the Nuer (vice president Machar). People in the West will have a hard time understanding why tribal lines are so important in other countries, but a shorthand answer is that the tribes, besides having limitless historical grievances against each other (actions often taking the form of cattle and child raids - hard for Westerners to understand but cattle are the main/sole non-human unit in the economy) and natural racism, compete for control of limited resources in their region. Democracy (South Sudan is a democracy) in these places isn't a vote based on policy, but a vote to decide which group will have power to control those resources and make decisions over both groups.

A scuffle erupted in the government building of the capital, and immediately the country split in civil war along the lines of Dinka versus Nuer. Fighting took place throughout the country: the government and its army versus the army of the rebel tribe. The whole country was ravaged and everyplace was the scene of ongoing murder, rape, and other aggression, besides the army skirmishes.

No place was safe. The UN moved in to set up fenced camps to protect people. They asked for money and resources to take care of these people, but the resources they got were often stolen, damaged, or ill-used. There was no safe transport means in the country, so resources could not be distributed to other regions, even if once they got there they would be properly meted out. No one could grow crops and other work was also disrupted, so food became extremely scarce and people died of starvation.

Since weeks after the outbreak, every once in a while there is a planned meeting to discuss terms for peace, or a proposed peace deal. These always fall through for one reason or another, often with the rebel leader citing security concerns. The deals are brokered by the main country of the region, Ethiopia and its capital in Addis Ababa, where the rebel leader often seeks refuge. Ethiopia is the head of the trading block of East Africa, EAC.

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CHINA

This year is 2019. The story I think might be the best is Hong Kong. Citizens in Hong Kong are still very active against the legal authoritarian oppressions their new (since 1997) Chinese rulers are implementing in the former British colony. Remember the Umbrella Revolution from 2014?

In April, the Chinese government tried to pass a bill through the head of Hong Kong. The bill would allow extradition of "criminals" in Hong Kong to "mainland China" (the rest of China not including Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. Yes, Hong Kong and Macau are physically part of the mainland. They sit near each other on the Pacific Coast). In Hong Kong, the courts are staffed by Hong Kongers, who may have respect for law and order stemming from their colonial history, as all Hong Kongers are considered to have a more "Western" concept of human and civil rights. In mainland China, however, courts are controlled by the government directly, like all things, including the press. It is common for "criminals" in China to be executed or disappeared, or sentenced to lengthy jail terms, for crimes such as speaking against the government, associating with people who speak against the government, etc.)

Hong Kongers realizing that this bill would allow citizens who opposed the government to be processed not through the more fair courts of Hong Kong, but sent to the mainland to be processed as China would prefer, were alarmed.

There was already heightened emotion three people had recently killed themselves leaving behind messages protesting the extradition law.

April 28, public protests began with a march including tens of thousands of people. It was one of the biggest public demonstrations since the Umbrella Movement in 2014.

June 9, over a million people were in the streets (possibly the biggest in Hong Kong history). Many symbolically wore black and carried white flowers of mourning for those who died. The mass of people halted traffic outside the government headquarters.

Many protesters cited hopelessness and desperation as motives. One young man said, "Everything that has happened is the result of the government ignoring us. They asked for it." Another: "If we don't come out, Hong Kong will collapse."

Among the ongoing demands of the protesters: withdrawal of the bill, free activists already arrested after previous demonstrations, investigate and hold police accountable for use of violence against crowds. Some also demanded the resignation of the Hong Kong leader.

Police made 19 arrests following the June 9 protest, and estimated the turnout at 240,000.

June 12 huge crowds rallied and blocked major roads and attempted to storm parliament, and the second reading of the extradition bill was delayed.

During the June 12 protest, police used teargas, rubber bullets and truncheons against largely peaceful crowds, injuring almost 80 people, which use was to become a serious grievance cited by protesters later.

June 15, after a week of protests and worldwide media coverage, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced the bill would be suspended (put on hold) and apologized for the crisis. It was considered to be perhaps the most serious instance of the Hong Kong government backing down since 2003 when it dropped a security law in the face of public opposition.

Starting at noon Sunday, June 16, a large protest began that involved and mingled all types of people, from veteran protesters to the city's youth who never knew colonial Hong Kong. They sang protest songs and chanted in a public movement that lasted for hours, remaining peaceful throughout. Police estimated 340,000, while organizers said 2 million.

"Before this week I had never been on a protest," said one 28-year-old, "but I am a teacher, and I realized that if I didn't come I wouldn't be able to face my students. This is their future."

Older protesters said that although they feared Hong Kong faced the most serious crisis of their lifetime, they found hope in the number of young protesters.

"I'm very encouraged by the younger people. If it was just us [older people] the city would be finished," said a 75-year-old. "I was a refugee. I escaped China when there was a famine, and I saw people being shot there. The Communist party isn't to be trusted."

Older Hong Kongers, though, are generally thought to be more in favor of Beijing (the Chinese government) than the youth, and are thought to see protests more in terms of "disruptions."

"Suspending the law but not cancelling it is like holding a knife to someone's head and saying, 'I'm not going to kill you now,' but you could do it any time. We're fighting for our freedom," said an 18-year-old protester.

One protester died while trying to hang up a banner on a building in the town centre, and was later described at least by some as the movement's "first martyr."

Monday, July 1 (the day of the anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to Chinese possession), amid a protest of thousands of people, four protesters barged into the the legislative council (LegCo), and occupied it and vandalized it. They insisted on waiting to be arrested by police. These four were later termed "the death fighters."

According to one of them, a young father, "Our action might not be useful but it is symbolic. We know we might get eight or 10 years for doing this, but i grew up here, I love the freedoms and the dignified life and I don't want to lose them."

Hundreds of other protesters, barged in in the evening, too, and vandalized it. Some were concerned about the four inside, and shouted, "Let's leave together!" They grabbed the four and frogmarched them out of the building.

Some protesters graffitied the walls of the legislative building with political slogans and spraypainted over the faces of the LegCo presidents photos. One said, "People will rise up when the authorities push them to the brink." A British colonial-era flag was put up, as was a banner that read, "There are no rioters, only violent regimes." One young man explained that the spraypainting was meant as an insult to the government and the legislative system.

One young woman stated, "If they don't go, we don't go. We're all afraid, but we are more afraid that we won't see those four again."

Later in the evening, police fired tear gas in and baton-charged the protesters and retook control of the building.

After the protest, police immediately began to collect evidence against protesters. There were many vehicles stopped to check passengers identities.

Protesters, however, continue the demand that the government fully withdraw the bill, not just suspend it. They also want the government to release all those arrested in previous protests.

In response to the incident in the legislative building, pro-Beijing (pro-"China") spokespeople criticized the use of vandalism on the part of protesters: "What we saw last night was shocking violence, unprecedented violence and damage to the Legislative Council. No slogan, no demand can justify such violence," said one chair of the pro-Beijing New People's Party. "Totally unacceptable for a civilized society like Hong Kong."

One activist responded by saying, "The protesters who broke into the Legislative Council complex were not rioters. They were not violent. They wanted to make the regime hear Hong Kongers' voice, and they had no other option.

"Perhaps all of you will not agree with every single action they took yesterday. But what are a few pieces of glass worth in comparison to the deaths of three young men and women? What are a few portraits worth in comparison to the very survival of Hong Kong as a place?"

After months of protests following the extradition bill, some have said there is a wave of "rebellion" in the air as people who have seen the success and popularity of the million-plus protest and tons of other protests are becoming more vocal about a range of grievances. Lots of protests for various causes are being published as lists on social media. Not so much on Facebook, though, unlike the Facebook-based Umbrella Revolution in 2014. In 2019, they are using Snapchat and Instagram. Also Telegram, the most common messaging app, which is known to be encrypted.

"Facebook is not a useful tool for the movement except for those celebrities and parties, on which they make announcements and deliver statements," said a former general secretary of the Hong Kong student federation.

The LIHKG forum has also replaced the HKGolden one used in 2014, which was criticized after the site managers were forced to hand over the IP address of a 23-year-old to the authorities.

In the streets while protesting, Apple Airdrop is popular for sending digital pamphlets which can be shared even when offline. This and similar apps are being used because they don't allow authorities to curtail access.

"I think it is very important people can be anonymous on LIHKG and can really say what they really think, don't care about rivalries and leave the judgment to other people," said the former HK student federation general secretary.

One difference between these platforms and Facebook is that Facebook's algorhythm favors posts that have a lot of debate, which may not help when people want to share posts about planning and taking action. Some think Facebook's algo amplifies disagreement.

“The anti-extradition protests have heightened our awareness over community issues. Instead of waiting for the government to do something, we may as well take it into our own hands,” said a 20-year-old man.

One issue is "reclamation." In the past two decades, local Hong Konger-owned shops have become very few, while Chinese shops have become very common. Hong Kongers see this as an erosion of Hong Kong's way of life caused by mainland Chinese. Hong Kongers are also focused on a border-town called Sheung Shui which they say has become full of garbage and shops selling to Chinese tourists as well as "parallel-traders," people who buy Hong Kong goods and resell them in China.

Another issue is full suffrage. Hong Kong's government is half picked by Beijing. People feel the Chinese government can thereby do whatever it wants.

Christian groups are playing a big role in the protests. Part of this is they are advocating peace. Another is that some fear a crackdown on religion by China.

People are already talking about how the eventual success or failure of the popular movement in quashing the extradition bill and other demands will depend on whether the momentum will keep going among the population.

AUGUST 20 2019

The protests continue, and have become one of the main news stories of the times. In other words, the world is watching, is interested, and cares. The protesters recently occupied Hong Kong airport, disrupting a lot of air traffic. Videos have been posted of big military trucks with cages on them moving into Hong Kong in convoy, being parked in a big sports stadium.

A parallel story is "the voice of Mainland Chinese" who want to be heard. They are portrayed as strongly against the Hong Kongers, and the reports cite fairly strong and offensive language used to describe the Hong Kongers and their actions.

Another story is that Chinese state news (ie all Chinese news, since they own the news companies and control and censor what they publish, which is news to some people I guess) has been "caught" publishing things purposefully against the Hong Kong protesters and paying for advertisements to this purpose on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Also, "uncovered" are large groups of social media (mostly Twitter, I think) accounts used to try to manipulate public opinion on the stories shared on the subject. (in case you're reading this in the future and wondering if this is really "news," its not in terms of "a new development," but its being reported as as if it were real news because I suppose it is news to a lot of people and people right now care about the story.

AT THE SAME TIME, China is facing difficult developments as the US is continuing its "trade war" against China and specifically Huawei, which the US is calling a "national security threat." ALSO, China's claims and building projects in the South China Sea (for which its territorial claims are groundless in terms of historical evidence) are being challenged, by military displays by the US, (I think) Australia, Phillipines, and Japan. Japan, which hasn't been allowed to have a real army since World War II as part of its surrender contract, is now going to be able to have one and use it "to help allies who are in trouble." Japan has been participating in wars though, just not in a full capacity. Japanese were featured highly in the conquests of ISIS when their nationals were beheaded along with American nationals. I don't remember where they've been active at the moment, though, actually. Since China first announced they were claiming those islands and waters in the South China Sea (I think in 2013 or 2014), the US and others have been running military missions and flights through there just as they always have, despite China's warnings not to invade "their territory." Also, I think I read that their economy is facing a landmark downturn for the first time in a couple decades or something.

OCTOBER 2019

It's October now. The protests have continued. I haven't really been watching at all, but occasionally I see something on CNN as I flip past it. There are major, huge public gatherings and demonstrations all the time. This week, the state (Chinese government) closed down public transport in Hong Kong for like a day, but restored it. Also, they passed a law/ban on masks in public places. Some commenters said that this might show that the state is going to give the police more powers to quell the demonstrators. It sounds like news reporters think police might be kind of afraid to do anything against the citizens.

This protest has been going on for like half a year I guess now. China obviously does not know quite what to do about it. I didn't think Hong Kongers would be so into it, to continue to spend so much energy for half a year. Although it might not seem like "spending energy" there, as there haven't been many negative consequences, and it's probably a very nice, social, fun feeling to go out and see and meet thousands of others all the time, and feel like you're doing something positive, and standing up against a foreign oppressor for your own rights.

The mayor's concession is still the same, that she's withdrawn the bill. However, the people want more than this. They have 5 outlined demands: Killing that bill; universal suffrage; investigation into police brutality; (I forget the other two).

It has been 20 years since Britain gave this colony "back to" China. There have been some protests, notably the impressive and surprising Umbrella Revolution in 2014, but I might have guessed that this spirit (for human rights, self-governance through democracy, standing up against oppression) might have almost died out, and that Hong Kong would just become part of China.

Even in China, although we don't hear about it much (perhaps because the state completely controls the news, social media, and can disappear people and executes many times as many people per year as the rest of the world combined, and because they monitor their citizens heavily, and also have implemented now the social credit system). But from the instances that do come to light here and there, Chinese people don't lack bravery at all when it comes to doing something or standing up for something. They've also rebelled and fought in their past. They seem quite well-behaved most of the time, though (I don't mean public manners; everyone knows mainlanders don't have manners, and painfully prove that any time they travel or immigrate).

This event though, whether it succeeds in obtaining its demands or is quelled, possibly through violence, possibly through just waiting it out, possibly through arbitration or manipulation), you might expect will provide a sort of renewal of this movement. While we might have expected the possibility of a human rights movement in Hong Kong to die out soon, having lived under Chinese rule and being taken over in many positions of authority and in the composition of the population by mainlanders. But now even 20 years later people will remember this movement and have all its ideas, its successes, it's feeling, in their minds. Many people will have formed couples, friends, colleagues, started new jobs at companies, had babies, in this 6 months. In 20 years their children will know that their parents met during this event. Babies will hear stories how they were born while their parents were going out on the street to meet the entire city and protest and demonstrate for their rights, against an abusive totalitarian state and a sort of takeover of their land. 20 years from now, the bosses of these companies will have got their jobs while discussing with the guys who hired them the abuses of China and their hate for abuse and how they must struggle and sacrifice for rights.

In this, we can see that if the people will it, and actually act on it, in a form that takes some energy but not too much, they can't lose, really, unless they're actually physically destroyed by their enemy.

Another thing we might discuss is that all of the countries that received English (or Northern European) culture, which includes individualism and democracy have rebelled and had revolts of this sort to achieve popular rights, or have just been given them. The English Revolution, The US Revolution, etc. (I don't know very well. Not my area of history. Maybe someone can fill that in.)

It's possible that we could find that America benefited in the decades after her wars because her citizens had a memory of everything that they saw, felt, and thought during those years, everything they entered into which would have carried on for decades. Also the hippy era of demonstrations, love and ideas. Running into someone who had been through that period would be different from running across someone who'd never had to think about those ideas. I myself have met people who were part of or peripheral to the hippies of a few spots and I can say this is true.

QUESTIONS RAISED:

  1. Why Hong Kong protesters protest, as opposed to other nations that are not motivated to protest, such as our own? Is it the level of offence by the Communist rule? Some source of will within their conception of their lives, place, or society? Are they less comfortable/lazy/unmotivated than we are?

  2. What causes the Hong Kong leader to submit?

  3. What is the levee point where sufficient action (and type of action) has taken place and the government will now yield?

  4. What will China's response be? and what tactics will it decide on to crush Hong Kong?

TTTThis