Remembering Nicaragua on July 19 is every year a moral obligation for me. In Nicaragua I grew as a person, as a thinking human being and as a fighter for the most just causes of humanity. Thanks to Fidel, I was elevated to the status of internationalist combatant, the highest rank a revolutionary can aspire.
Remembering Nicaragua, its noble and friendly people, its government and, in my case, its army is, above all, being consistent with myself, with what I was, with what I am and with what I will always be beyond the ups and downs that life throws at me. It is also being loyal to my companions who fought and fell fighting for a free Nicaragua.
I remember as if it were today those hectic hours in mid-July 1979. On the 17th we learned that the tyrant had fled to Miami – of course! The joy of the news flooded with happiness the trenches of the Benjamín Zeledón South Front, where I was.
In mid-June the Southern Front had conquered and liberated a territory of around 30 km² on the border with Costa Rica. A large group of internationalist combatants from various countries, but notably from Latin America, gave our solidarity and combative support to the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), which had become the leading force in the anti-Somocista struggle. We did not sign a contract, we did not receive a payment, we were internationalist combatants, not mercenaries. The only thing we demanded was a place in the fighting trenches of the Nicaraguan people.
The joy of that July 17 was quickly extinguished when it was learned that the dictator -before leaving- had left Francisco Urcuyo Maliaños, one of his henchmen, in his place, in a clear move by Washington that intended to continue controlling the country through a model of Somocism without Somoza. With this, he intended to hide the victory of the FSLN and the people of Nicaragua.
The astonishment and surprise gave way to the question of what to do now? Instructions soon arrived from the FSLN National Directorate: The order to all fronts was to move immediately towards Managua.
July 18 was a day of planning and organizing the offensive: the combatants cleaned their rifles with the sensitivity that is lavished on a loved woman or man, the artillerymen prepared the ammunition and stripped the pieces of any substance that could prevent an effective and accurate shot, the scouts were attentive to any movement of the enemy, the radio listeners increased their vigilance to find out the plans of the Somoza national guard. It was a rainy day, tension was in the air, we all felt that the decisive fight was approaching.
On a day like today, exactly 44 years ago, very early, the vanguard patrols began their advance, all with the utmost secrecy and extreme caution. But there was no response from the enemy. Upon arriving -without fighting- at the trenches occupied by him, the patrol chief reported: “They are not here. They fled”. It was July 19, 1979.
The combatants in the advance guard were ordered to continue to advance north along the Pan-American Highway, but to do so with the utmost care in order to avoid an ambush. However, the reports remained the same: “There is no one. The enemy is gone.”
Upon confirming the news, it was inevitable that an overflowing and contagious joy was unleashed in columns and squads and a great celebration among Sandinista and internationalist combatants who embraced each other with a fraternal spirit, while shouting cheers and revolutionary slogans in favor of the people and the FSLN.
Orders were immediately given to prepare the march towards Managua. Trucks and other vehicles appeared out of nowhere to transport the combatants, logistics, weapons and ammunition.
The trip to the capital (about 140 km) was extremely slow, thousands of people, men, the elderly, women and children expressed their joy by rushing (sometimes recklessly) on the vehicles, hugging the combatants and giving them water, coffee and fruit. It was an extraordinary fusion between the FSLN and the people and the way in which they recognized those who had fought with arms in hand for their liberation. The spirit of Sandino, Benjamín Zeledón, Carlos Fonseca and the danto Germán Pomares covered the atmosphere with an enveloping and totalizing happiness.
The joy was indescribable, Nicaragua had conquered its future after decades of heroic struggle in which valuable sons of the people had fallen, beginning with Carlos Fonseca Amador, founder of the FSLN and Commander-in-Chief of the Sandinista Popular Revolution.
It was victory day. The most beautiful day of my life, never before and never after have I felt anything like it.