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social sciences

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Work for Change and a Search for Identity

Despite this official sanction of , glbtq people in Nicaragua have continued to work for change, often by establishing ties with international NGOs, which can provide some much-needed funds. The alliances with foreign groups and the competition for their financial support have, however, tended to impede the development of a unified Nicaraguan glbtq rights movement.

Like many other Latin American cultures Nicaragua has a tradition of machismo, the valuing of "manliness" in men. Establishing and retaining an image as an "hombre-hombre" (a manly man) has always been of extreme importance to Nicaraguan males. The behavior of an hombre-hombre may include having sex with other men, but only as the active partner. Passive partners, known as cochones, are severely stigmatized.

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Because this cultural system is different from that in North America and Europe, it may be inappropriate to label as gay hombre-hombres who have sex with other men. As Hekma points out, they have "no strong feeling of identity or community," and many eventually marry and stop seeking male partners. Pressure on young women to remain virgins until marriage has been and continues to be very strong in Nicaragua, which has contributed to the situational homosexuality practiced by young men.

As communications with gay groups in other countries, particularly the United States, improve, some men are developing a "western style" gay consciousness and sense of community. The gay and lesbian organization Fundación Xochiquetzal provides opportunities for political expression, and there is a modest gay social scene in Managua for middle- and upper-class men whose incomes allow them to go out for entertainment.

For lesbians the situation is somewhat different. In Nicaraguan society gender roles have been characterized by the "la casa y la calle" (the house and the street) tradition, with men enjoying the freedom of the latter while women stay behind to tend the former. Lesbians are generally less visible in public spaces than are gay men. Their socializing often occurs in private venues such as potluck dinner parties.

Lesbians frequently shoulder greater family obligations than gay men and have less disposable income. They are, however, very active in NGOs. The gay and lesbian rights movement in Nicaragua grew largely out of the women's movement. In addition to Xochiquetzal, Nicaraguan lesbians founded and play an important role in Puntos de Encuentro, "a Nicaraguan feminist and youth center for communication, research, and education, dedicated to social change."

Women have also been among the leaders at the Fundación Nimehuatzin, an NGO that provides AIDS education and care. In 2000 the foundation's president and founder, Rita Arauz, won an award from the United Nations Development Program for her work combating the disease.

The differences in the situations of gay men and lesbians has sometimes led to friction between the groups. Some men believe that women have too much power in the NGOs, while some women think that men are reaping most of the socio-economic benefits that have been won.

Despite the occasional complaints, the glbtq community of Nicaragua is largely united in the goal of creating an identity, campaigning for equal rights, and working for the prevention and treatment of AIDS. For some years there has been an annual Gay Pride celebration in Managua, held around June 28 to commemorate the Stonewall uprising.

One of Nicaragua's most popular television programs is Sexto Sentido ("Sixth Sense"), a "social soap opera" whose principal characters include a gay man and a lesbian. In a 2002 interview co-executive producer Virginia Lacayo, who is also co-director of Puntos de Encuentro with the show's co-creator Amy Bank, pointed out that Sexto Sentido was watched by 70 percent of the country's potential television viewers and by 80 percent of those 13 to 17 years old. She stated that it is "reaffirming" for gay men and lesbians to see characters like themselves on television and expressed the hope that the program would help "demystify gay life and gay people," leading to greater acceptance and equal rights.

Progress for glbtq Nicaraguans has been slow, but through the efforts of dedicated and hard-working people, strides are being made.

Linda Rapp

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social sciences >> Overview:  Colombia

Although glbtq persons in Colombia continue to be the victims of discrimination and violent hate crimes because of their sexual orientation, civil rights progress has been made in recent years.

social sciences >> Overview:  El Salvador

Although there have been recent attempts to organize glbtq people for political and social action in El Salvador, the country's history of homophobic repression continues.

social sciences >> Overview:  Guatemala

Although glbtq organizations have emerged in Guatemala, hate crimes against homosexuals continue to be a serious problem.

social sciences >> Overview:  Latin America: Colonial

Same-sex sexual practices among the indigenous peoples of Latin America were seen by their Spanish and Portuguese conquerors as evidence of their cultural inferiority and were repressed through both religious and civil means.

social sciences >> Overview:  Mexico

Although Mexico has had a long history of homosexual activity that began before the Conquest, its Latin American machismo has problematized the acceptance of glbtq people.

social sciences >> Overview:  Roman Catholicism

Historically, the Roman Catholic Church may be the institution most responsible for the suffering of individuals involved in same-sex sexual relationships.

social sciences >> Overview:  Situational Homosexuality

Situational homosexuality is same-sex sexual activity that occurs not as part of a gay life style, but because the participants happen to find themselves in a single-sex environment for a prolonged period.


Babb, Florence E. "Out in Public: Gay and Lesbian Activism in Nicaragua." NACLA Report on the Americas 37 (May-June 2004): 27-30.

Castillo, Ricardo. "Embassy Protest Assails Nicaraguan Sodomy Bill; Demonstrators Urge Veto to Protect Gay Rights." Washington Post (August 6, 1992): A34.

Christian, Shirley. "Newest Storm in Nicaragua: Anti-Gay Law." New York Times (July 10, 1992): A8.

Hekma, Gert. "Gay Cultures in Nicaragua."

Hernández, Teresita, and Verónica Campanile. "Feminism at Work; A Case Study of Transforming Power Relations in Everyday Life: Puntos de Encuentro." Institutionalizing Gender Equality: Commitment, Policy and Practice. Henk van Dam, Angela Khadar, and Minke Valk, eds. Amsterdam: Royal Tropical Institute, 2000. 53-66.

Lancaster, Roger N. Life Is Hard; Machismo, Danger, and the Intimacy of Power in Nicaragua. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

"Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival." April 26-May 5, 2002.

Roa Romero, Gabriela. "PNUD premia a nica por luchar contra la pobreza." La Prensa (Managua) (November 1, 2000).

Thayer, Millie. "Identity, Revolution, and Democracy: Lesbian Movements in Central America." Social Problems 44 (August 1997): 386-407.


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Nicaragua  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated June 9, 2004  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
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    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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