Nicaraguan Jesuit, Political Activist Captivates BC Audience
Published: Thursday, October 13, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
After Cardenal's hearing before Congress, President Jimmy Carter stopped providing aid to the dictatorial government in Nicaragua. Eighteen months later, the Somoza army was defeated.
Nicaragua began rebuilding, and Cardenal launched his literacy campaign. "Fifty percent of the country was illiterate," he said. "Those who cannot read are poor twice. They are the poorest of the poor."
Cardenal enlisted the help of 60,000 volunteers, which he notes is an impressive number for a country with a population of only three million, to live in the mountains and teach the peasant families to read and write. Although it was challenging, Cardenal credits the volunteers with the success of the campaign.
"What we did in the headquarters office is small compared with what we did with the young people in the mountains," he said. "Despite threats from counter-revolutionaries, not one young person dropped out."
Cardenal's campaign raised the literacy rate in Nicaragua to 87 percent, and in 1980, the country was awarded UNESCO's literacy award. Currently, the Jesuit runs a program to aid school systems in Nicaragua.