Rarely can Americans fathom what goes on outside the United states. Maybe the widespread poverty and violence in American cities approximate the conditions of poor, war-torn Third World countries, but the conflict we see at home will always be the conflict of a rich society.
When American journalists make the occasional sojourn into the world beyond our borders, they are usually insulated from harm and produce relatively mild accounts of their trips. One such trek has given Lawrence J. Maushard the material for his new book, Made in Managua.
Seen through the eyes of a liberal white American, Made in Managua is a memoir of Maushard's nonchalant exploration of Nicaragua at the end of its civil war. The book does not attempt to relate the experiences of the war-torn citizens of Managua, but Maushard does succeed within his limited scope--he gives a superb fresh-out-of-college journalist's depiction of his jaunt through North America's most bitter war zone.
Maushard embarks from Boston in his "beast," a dilapidated car that takes him to southern Mexico. His $900 already wearing thin, Maushard makes a valuable friendship with a Nicaraguan franchise operator, Donald, who helps him to the Nicaraguan border. The acquaintance really pays off when this wealthy merchant provides Maushard with the food, shelter and information he needs to survive in Nicaragua's capital city.
Made in Managua
by Lawrence J. Maushard
The author plays the whole journey by ear; he frequently does not know where he will stay or where his next meal will come from. This lackadaisical attitude drowns out any political insights that Maushard might have gleaned from the trip. Instead, he dwells on satisfying his primal urges for women and devotes considerable effort to describing how desirable each one he encounters is.
When he is not smoking pot, drinking and "getting laid," Maushard manages to scratch the surface of a Nicaraguan culture scarred by civil war. The people he encounters and the protests he witnesses produce an unsettling ambiguity about who is the hero and who the villain in the jumble of Nicaraguan society.
Maushard originally set out for Central America as a freelance journalist to cover the announcement of the Arias Peace Plan in Managua. While this pedestrian premise may disappoint Hemingway idealists and leave Michener mavericks unsatisfied, the book gives a surprisingly novel and realistic perspective of Nicaragua--albeit from the viewpoint of a privileged, aging hippie.
Maushard triumphs for precisely this reason; he makes no pretense of providing a masterpiece of literature. He recounts an adventure, a personal involvement.
Made in Managua offers a simple, contemporary account of a single American's brief encounter with the tumult of Central American politics. Maushard effectively provides us with an unpolished, but rewarding portrait of Nicaragua. Although his brief account is not particularly insightful, it paints a memorable picture of something most Americans will never know.