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Blood of Brothers: Life and War in Nicaragua (Latin American Studies)

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  486 ratings  ·  59 reviews
This is Stephen Kinzer's dramatic story of the centuries-old power struggle that burst into the headlines in 1979 with the overthrow of the Somoza dictatorship. It is a portrait of the Nicaraguan people and their volcanic land, a cultural history rich in poetry and bloodshed, baseball and insurrection.
Paperback, 460 pages
Published September 1st 2007 by David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (first published 1991)
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4.35  · 
Rating details
 ·  486 ratings  ·  59 reviews

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Jul 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've spent three and a half months in Nicaragua over the past two winters studying Spanish, volunteering and travelling. The country is beautiful, the people warm and welcoming. This is a must read for anyone interested in Nicaragua. It tells the story of the overthrow of the Somosa regime realized in the summer of 1978 and of the contra war in the eighties during which the Regan regime funded the contra rebels and did everything short of mounting a full invasion of the country to dislodge the c ...more
Dec 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
When I was in Nicaragua this book was like Girl Scout cookies in January - everybody wanted it but nobody could find it. It was out of print. You heard rumors about this amazing book. Everybody knew somebody that had read it and raved about it, but nobody knew where to get a copy. When I finally got a copy Fedex'd in from America the book exceeded my wildest expectations.

Shortly after the PriceSmart opened in Managua, some friends and I ran into a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. We didn't
May 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a must read for anyone interested in the gorgeous country of Nicaragua. I lived in Nicaragua for nine months, am dating a "Nica", and have been back for visits three times. It is a beautiful, poor country (it's the poorest country in Latin America) with a laid back atmosphere and warm people. I set out to read about its turbulent history that led it to its present state and this was the perfect find.

Kinzer was the The New York Times bureau chief, reporting on the fall of the Somoza dynas
Jul 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
For most of the 1980s bloody wars were being fought in three Central American countries, all of them involving the United States. In El Salvador and Guatemala, guerrilla armies were attempting to overthrow right-wing dictatorships - the dictatorships, supported by the US, had ruled those countries for decades. In Nicaragua, the reverse was happening: the US was supporting rebel armies that were trying to overthrow the revolutionary Sandinista government, that in 1984 actually became an elected g ...more
David Solis
Feb 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book hit close to home for me. I grew up listening to my parents’ stories about the civil war in Nicaragua. Stephen Kinzer’s firsthand accounts and research breathed even more life into the stories I grew up and learned about. To recognize the names and places I used to visit was astonishing. To read the vivid and detailed stories of triumph and tragedy that Nicaraguans know all too well was an experience I’ll never forget. I learned so much about what happened in Nicaragua and couldn’t hel ...more
Ryan Knicely
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
An amazing account of the history of Nicaragua, especially the 1970s and 1980s.
Michael Griswold
Aug 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Stephen Kinzer writes an engaging although sad and depressing narrative about Nicaragua during the U.S. backed Somoza dictatorship and the eleven year period of Sandinista rule (1979-1990. Drawing on interviews with government officials and local residents Kinzer paints a picture of a country in an unsettled state of war. Nicaraguans buried a whole generation of their young fighting to first remove the Somoza dictatorship from power and then a second civil war between the Sandinistas and the Con ...more
Dec 11, 2016 rated it liked it
Riveting yet terribly sad 400-page history of Nicaragua's struggle for peace from Somoza to the Sandinistas. Kinzer's first-person reporting places you in the unrest of Managua and fighting in the foothills. Reagan's gambit to outspend the communists worked in the end, but created conflict far beyond Russia and Eastern Europe, with 30,000 lives lost in Nicaragua.
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book about the Contra War in Nicaragua, good detail really brings to life the conflict and all its actors providing great insights.
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I was supposed to visit Nicaragua this past summer, but right before my trip, massive and violent civil unrest broke out, and it continues today. My tour company canceled, but he recommended this book as the most balanced perspective on their history.

It sat on my shelf for a couple months, mostly because I was so sad about not making the trip that I couldn’t confront it. But also because I approach these kinds of books with a side eye: is it REALLY balanced? Will it go too easy on Reagan? Will
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Politics are written with the blood of a nation, and nowhere is that more evident than in a country of great upheaval like Nicaragua during the 80s and the revolution-era, where starvation, poverty and regular burials at the cemetery were a way of life. It was exhilarating to read about a country, where many of the things spoken about, I had seen with my own two eyes, yet I walked right past some of these historic sites because I had no background knowledge to appreciate the history fully.

This b
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very interesting look into the recent history of a country that most American's don't know the first thing about - and if they do, what they know has been skewed by our government's spin. I'm stunned by the extent of the chaos that the United States caused in Nicaragua and I'm super angry at Ronald Regan.
Maddie Rojas Lynch
May 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Such an essential read for anyone trying to understand Nicaragua. Kinzer writes insightfully, eloquently, and compassionately about Nicaragua, and readers are taken on a journey through the history of the country's trials and tribulations.
Robert Enzenauer
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful , well written and very readable history. And for me, very personal, since I did two deployments to Honduras at Palmerola and JTF-Bravo (A Joint Task Force that still exists today in Honduras) with hospirals, when there was a lot of turmoil in both Nicaragua and El Salvador,
Teresa Bradford
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
After spending ten weeks in Nicaragua, I loved that this book gave me so much historical context about the cities I visited. It is very well written and gives a raw, candid look at life during the Nicaraguan civil war and how much negative influence the United States had on the war.
Jan 07, 2018 rated it liked it
A whimsical narrative that gives great light to the actual history of Nicaragua throughout the different conflicts, but is a little polished in the realities of the whole situation.
Mar 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommended to pdxmaven by: G. Robboy
Started reading this in preparation for upcoming (and now postponed til fall) trip to Nicaragua. The perspective of the author as a newspaper correspondent (first for the Boston Globe and then for the NY Times) from 1976 to 1988, you get not only a picture of what the unfolding of events in Nicaragua during those crucial years, but also a sense of what it meant to be a journalist in the midst of those times.

Kinzer describes being captivated early on by a book about Nicaragua written in 1860 (!)
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is the chilling tale of the atrocities that took place in Nicaragua over a span of a century - and the survival of its people throughout it all. Told passionately by a man who lived through parts of the devastating contra war while on assignment for the New York Times, this book will grab your attention and hold it closely until the end. Kinzer is an amazing writer, and he brings the culture and the people of Nicaragua to life unlike any other author that I've read on the subject of this be ...more
May 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
[The polls] show that all of the opposition parties in Nicaragua combined had the support of only 9 percent of the population, but they have 100 percent of Stephen Kinzer.
—Noam Chomsky

Knowing this, that Kinzer doesn't exactly have Chomsky seal of approval as a fair and unbiased correspondent, how does one read Blood of Brothers? Not that every book must be Chomsky approved to be fair and thorough, but this isn't the only instance where the Times' coverage of foreign affairs -- and Central Americ
Jul 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
It is the rare book that keeps me up past midnight, frantically turning pages under a reading lamp to see what comes next; it is rarer still that such a book is a nonfiction account rather than the latest Harry Potter installment. I had originally planned to peruse leisurely this book over the next month to gain an overview of the Sandinista era in Nicaragua. Instead, I rapidly devoured it in three days, sneaking peaks during breaks at work, at the dinner table, and upon waking up in the morning ...more
Nathan Titus
Apr 30, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: the-world
I have no specific complaints about this book. It didnt portray the sandanistas as white wearing western good guys the way I feared it would. In fact it didnt show any polititcian in a very positive light. Kinzer is a fair, unbiased journalist throughout. All the same, I didnt get much out of this book either.
A year ago, I told a freind that I was headed to nicaragua, that Id never been to central america, and that I wanted to know all I could. She insisted that I read this book. I bought it, bu
Bill Roth
Jul 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nicaragua
The book is a fascinating look at the history of the Nicaraguan Contra/Civil war, told from the vantage point of a New York Times reporter , Stephen Kinzer. WHile he makes short shrift of the history leading up to the 1970's, the detailed reportage in engaging. There are a number of quite dramatic passages, as when he first discovers the US-Funded Contras over the border in Honduras, something the US government gad been denying at length in the media.

I came away from this book without an underst
Sep 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A great political history of Nicaragua, focusing intently on the Sandinista revolution that toppled the Somoza regime, fought the counter-revolution Contras, lost power in the first real democratic and free elections, and now has taken control again.

I like the Mr. Kinzer points out that the Sandinistas made three critical errors that lead to their losing the election of 1990: #1 "they believed they could build Nicaragua into a prosperous country without deferring to the principles of free enter
Mar 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Blood of Brothers is a fascinating and highly readable history of Nicaragua written by the former New York Times bureau chief in Managua. Kinzer was a first-hand witness to much of Nicaragua's turbulent '80s -- from the last days of the Somoza dictatorship through the Sandinista revolution, civil war with the U.S.-backed contras and the eventual ceasefire. Online consensus seems to be that this is the place to start if you're interested in learning about the country, but I would recommend it to ...more
Apr 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: nicaragua
Kinzer's book, compared to others on the subject, is more of a general interest, magazine-audience kind of thing. It's a good overview, and a good place to start for a novice on the subject, but I didn't come away with anything more than general review, a kind of "lay of the land" function. The blood and guts of the story (literally and figuratively) can be found elsewhere, in books like Leslie Cockburn's "Out of Control: The Story of the Reagan Administration's Secret War in Nicaragua, the Ille ...more
Diane Ramirez
Jul 02, 2009 rated it really liked it
Written by a New York Times journalist living in Nicaragua during the Sandinista revolution and Contra war, Blood of Brothers is a great introduction to the political history of the country and how it developed into a heartbreaking, years-long battle amongst brothers, loved ones, neighbors. The US repeatedly plays the villain in this story -- not always, but far too often. I learned quite a lot reading this book, but even the most careful, diligent reader will have a hard time following the flui ...more
Dec 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I am going to back up the platonic life mate on this one with the five star rating.

This book is what got me into non-fiction/investigative writing/research as a genre. This was one of the "required" reading books on Nicaragua when we were in the Peace Corps, only it was uber difficult to find a copy. It was worth the wait - probably one of the best books on Central American history and Nicaragua, ever. Kinzer automatically rushed to my list of must-read authors after the first chaper - if he wr
Jul 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
A really comprehensive history about Nicaragua during the war and how it affected its citizens. Its too bad that there are so few books out there about the history of such a country. And the author boldly stuck himself right in Nicaragua's history as it was being made, giving his book a comprehensive and rich feel. This guy couldn't do anymore except pick up a rifle and join the Sandanistas. Now THAT would have made for an interesting story.

Obviously, required reading for any Nicaraguan PCVs. Go
Elaine Burbank
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this book in lieu of going on our study abroad trip to Nicaragua. I was pleasantly surprised at how interesting this book was! It was written by a New York Times reporter who was placed permanently in Nicaragua during their Civil War in the 1980s-1990s. I was shocked to know that the US government played such a big role in Nicaraguan politics. Reagan’s administration was so obsessed with supporting anti-Communists that they overlooked a lot of other evils. I learned a lot about the succes ...more
Nov 28, 2016 rated it did not like it
As a Nicaraguan who knows Nicaraguan history, I found this book to use tortured logic and twist facts to fit its socialist narrative. The author flagrantly omitted well known facts and events that reflect poorly upon the Sadinistas while presenting unsubstantiated conspiracy theories as evidence against the contras. He is quick to make baseless assertions backed only by phrases like "though I could never prove it, I knew 'so-and-so' to be true". This is a pure hatchet job on our struggle for dem ...more
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Stephen Kinzer is an award-winning foreign correspondent who has covered more than 50 countries on five continents. His articles and books have led the Washington Post to place him "among the best in popular foreign policy storytelling." (source)