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Students of Revolution

Students of Revolution
Youth, Protest, and Coalition Building in Somoza-Era Nicaragua

An illuminating examination of the role students played in promoting dissent and spreading revolutionary ideas in Nicaragua during the Cold War.

November 2019
304 pages | 6 x 9 | 8 b&w photos |

Students played a critical role in the Sandinista struggle in Nicaragua, helping to topple the US-backed Somoza dictatorship in 1979—one of only two successful social revolutions in Cold War Latin America. Debunking misconceptions, Students of Revolution provides new evidence that groups of college and secondary-level students were instrumental in fostering a culture of insurrection—one in which societal groups, from elite housewives to rural laborers, came to see armed revolution as not only legitimate but necessary.

Drawing on student archives, state and university records, and oral histories, Claudia Rueda reveals the tactics by which young activists deployed their age, class, and gender to craft a heroic identity that justified their political participation and to help build cross-class movements that eventually paralyzed the country. Despite living under a dictatorship that sharply curtailed expression, these students gained status as future national leaders, helping to sanctify their right to protest and generating widespread outrage while they endured the regime’s repression. Students of Revolution thus highlights the aggressive young dissenters who became the vanguard of the opposition.

  • Acknowledgments
  • List of Acronyms
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. The Origins of Student Anti-Somoza Consciousness, 1937–1944
  • Chapter 2. Protest and Repression during the “Democratic Effervescence,” 1944–1948
  • Chapter 3. Defending Student Dignity, 1950–1956
  • Chapter 4. “La Pequeña Gran República,” 1956–1959
  • Chapter 5. Reform vs. Revolution, 1960–1968
  • Chapter 6. Radicalizing Youth, 1966–1972
  • Chapter 7. Un Trabajo de Hormiga, 1970–1979
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Claudia Rueda
Corpus Christi, Texas

Rueda is an assistant professor of history at Texas A&M Corpus Christi. Her previous publications include “Agents of Effervescence: Student Protest and Nicaragua’s Post-war Democratic Mobilizations” in The Journal of Social History, and she has coedited the digital archive Onda Latina: The Mexican American Experience.


“As a detailed and insightful analysis of student politics during the Somoza period, Rueda’s book provides an invaluable resource for scholars attempting to puzzle through the sometimes slippery political character of student politics in Nicaragua. It is a timely and informative work that makes a significant contribution to our understanding of twentieth century political history in Nicaragua and the hemisphere.”
Journal of Iberian and Latin American Studies

“Joining a growing body of scholarship on student politics in Latin America during the Cold War, Rueda’s book illustrates the profound impact of student activism in a small country which did not see major uprisings in 1968.”
New Books in Latin American Studies

“[A] comprehensive book on how Nicaraguan students during the Somoza dictatorships...fought for political legitimacy and then used that authority to shape the society around them…Of extraordinary value are the unusual sources to which professor Rueda had access: oral histories through interviews with young students, advisers, parents, and university administrators; records in university archives; and flyers, publications, and student newspapers and correspondence.”
The Americas

Students of Revolution is an excellent book which takes on the difficult task of tracking student activism over time...Rueda keeps her focus on students while also providing the national context of the Somoza era years. The book will be of interest to a broad range of historians of Latin America’s Cold War.”
Journal of Social History

Students of Revolution is a beautifully textured study of university students who challenged one of the hemisphere's fiercest dictatorships, that of the Somoza dynasty in Nicaragua. Rueda's book will be enormously appealing to readers interested in twentieth-century resistance to state terror. The author writes with grace, and her impeccable scholarship is sure to stand the test of time.”
Cindy Forster, Scripps College, author of The Time of Freedom: Campesino Workers in Guatemala's October Revolution

Students of Revolution is an especially well-researched and thoughtfully crafted study of university students that fills a persistent gap in our understanding of the history of Nicaragua. Invoking the concept of a genealogy of dissent, Rueda contends that cross-class alliances, dialogue, and organization were ultimately responsible for the 1979 Sandinista victory. This nuanced argument changes the way we see Nicaragua’s revolutionary governments of the past, and it also challenges us to consider the transformative role of students in civil society. Rueda’s extensive oral histories and thoughtful work with memoir are remarkable. This book deserves a wide audience.”
Heather Vrana, University of Florida, author of This City Belongs to You: A History of Student Activism in Guatemala, 1944-1996