Fire from the Mountain

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The author, who joined the many Sandinista youths opposed to the corrupt and tyrannical regime of Anastasio Somoza, overthrown in 1979, provides a deft description of his country’s difficult times from the point of view of a bored, middle-class, provincial teenager in the 1970’s.

Omar Cabezas, a typical guerrilla, writes with vivid descriptive powers and a flair for scenes. This work contains many useful analogies with recently appearing literature about groups that fought for and later opposed Fidel Castro twenty years earlier. Cabezas effectively explains, as few have done, why Nicaraguan youngsters became disenchanted with their society, opting for violent social and political change.

His descriptions of the romantic notions which he and other urban youths had of guerrilla life are both humorous and sad. As he and his contemporaries complete their rites of passage, no attempt is made to indoctrinate the reader with any political ideology. Rather, Cabezas lets his experiences speak for themselves.

In one scene, Cabezas powerfully illustrates the impact of television coverage. Television crews filmed the National Guard’s attack on a guerrilla leader who was trapped in a home surrounded by troops in a residential neighborhood. Unable to defeat the lone leader with extraordinary numbers of ground troops, the National Guard called in a tank. When the tank failed to kill the guerrilla, the National Guard finally bombed the house with an air-force plane. The excessive force used by Somoza to suppress his opponents, the National Guard’s cowardice, and the government’s illegitimacy are skillfully conveyed.

The book combines universal themes found in contemporary fiction with strong insights into the sources of revulsion among a generation opposed to Somoza and supportive of the Sandinista government. It is a fast-paced, highly readable insider’s account of the making of a guerrilla in the Sandinista mode.