Date of Award

Spring 2001

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

Robert H. Holden

Committee Member

Qiu Jin

Committee Member

Annette Finley-Croswhite

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.H47 F75 2001


In July 1979, Anastasio Somoza Garcia fled Nicaragua, signaling the beginning of a true revolution, in every sense of the word. The triumph of the Nicaraguan Revolution hinged primarily on the development of a broad-based opposition coalition that included workers, peasants, the bourgeoisie and conservative upper-classes, students, and Catholic Christians. For centuries the Catholic Church in Nicaragua had maintained a mutually supportive relationship with the State. In the mid-1960s, however, a social movement began to sweep through the Church at the grassroots, causing the foundations of the Church-State relationship to shift dramatically. This social movement manifested itself in a common sense of injustice and emerging solidarity among Catholics, based on a revised interpretation of common Christian symbols, themes, and concerns. It spread through novel base organizations and pastoral methods, capitalizing on political opportunity offered not only by the regime but also by the hierarchy of Nicaraguan bishops. By the late 1970s elements the Catholic Church had fostered and participated in both the radical vanguard of the Revolution and its more cautious support, contributing to the momentous changes that engulfed Nicaraguan society throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Yet the origin of this key Catholic social movement was not Nicaraguan. In fact, all of its basic components were imported from the movement in the worldwide Catholic Church known as Liberation Theology. Only by using the analytical tools of both social movement theory and interdependence theory can we fully understand the changes in the Nicaraguan Church, and how those changes redounded to changes in Nicaraguan society.


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