Matilde Zimmerman's Book on Nicaraguan Revolutionary Leader Receives Praise

Last month Sarah Lawrence College history faculty member Matilde Zimmerman launched a Cuban edition of her biography, Sandinista, [Duke University Press, 2000] of Carlos Fonseca Amador – founder and central leader of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which led the Nicaraguan revolution of 1979 – to great acclaim. Bajo las banderas de Che y de Sandino [Under the Banners of Che and Sandino] was launched at the 2005 Havana Book Fair, one of the largest in the world with close to half a million visitors in attendance. Published by Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, the largest Cuban publisher of academic and scientific books, this edition is the second translation of the book into Spanish; the first was released in Nicaragua in 2003 under the title Carlos Fonseca Amador y la revolución nicaragüense.

In her remarks at the book fair, Zimmermann said the title symbolized the close relationship between the Cuban Revolution of 1959 and the Nicaraguan Revolution of 1979. Many in the audience were moved when she read out the dedication of her book: “To the thousands of Cuban volunteers—teachers, doctors, construction workers and others—who gave their labor and their love to the revolutionary people of Nicaragua.”

Zimmermann teaches Latin American History at Sarah Lawrence and is the director of the College’s semester-abroad program at the University of Havana. Because of the new restrictions on academic travel issued by the U.S. government last June, the Sarah Lawrence College program was one of the few programs of American undergraduates in Cuba in the Fall of 2004.

University of Havana professor Maria del Pilar Díaz Castañon, who wrote the prologue to Bajo las banderas de Che y de Sandino, called the book “not only an inquiring and real-life biography of the founder of the FSLN but also, and above all, the chronicle of an entire open-hearted and tumultuous epoch.”

Pedro Pablo Rodríguez, editor of the collected works of José Martí and a leading Cuban intellectual, said of the author: “She demonstrates her exceptional capacities as a historian, in taking on the inevitable risks associated with examining the life of a contemporary figure...managing with assurance an abundance of written documents and oral testimony, and submitting both types of information to critical rigor, close study, and meticulous analysis...The public and private Carlos Fonseca, his ideas, the historical process with which he interacted, the revolutionary movement he led—Matilde Zimmermann brings all these together in this book, which at the same time never loses its enchantment as a biographical tale.” The book, Rodríguez went on, “satisfies completely the strictest rules of the historical discipline, and its prose—elegant, simple and direct—draws us through its pages with true delight.”

“In this time of forgetting,” said respected Cuban intellectual Fernando Martínez Heredia in advance publicity for Bajo las banderas, “Matilde Zimmermann gives us back Carlos Fonseca, a person who knew how to love and to dedicate his life to liberty and justice. In this true political biography, she weaves a tapestry with her rigorous investigation of an enormous body of facts, arguments and passions, and she exposes with succinct clarity the life that made an ordinary human being into something great, and the complexity of the most transcendental and liberating cultural creation that humans are capable of—a revolution.”