The Jaguar Smile [Salman Rushdie]

There was a young girl of Nic’ragua
Who smiled as she rode on a jaguar
They returned from the ride
with the young girl inside
And the smile on the face of the jaguar [Anon]

I discovered this in the Latin America section in Stanfords, quite unaware that Salman Rushdie had written it, and central America was somewhere I have always wanted to travel around.

Rusdie’s trip of three weeks was made at the invitation of the Sandinista Association of Cultural workers and he was there at the seven year anniversary of the Sandinista’s rise to power.  While there he conversed with the President, Daniel Ortega, ministers (most of whom are poets) the owner of the recently closed La Prensa newspaper, aid workers and a midwife and her cow.

Nicaragua, which Rushdie clearly falls in love with, is portrayed very much as the little guy standing up to the big ;un (The US under Reagan) as the revolutionary government is besieged by the Contra and it’s backers. It’s always hard to tell just how truthful or unbiased narratives like this are.  But to be fair to El Escritor hindu, as he is known, he does not shy away from asking fairly probing questions where he can, and presses the government on it’s closure of La Prensa numerous times, and he admits failings in the book of people who he didn’t get to interview.

It’s a slim book.  Rushdie articulately mixing in facts with bits of his journeys around the country and his conversations with those in power and those without.  The Jaguar Smile should be seen as a postcard, a snapshot of a time and a place, a place that I myself long to go.

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