One Hundred Years of LGBT History in Nicaragua: Stories from the Global South

Collaborative Group

Dr. Karen Kampwirth, Professor Victoria González-Rivera


Political Science


In Nicaragua over the past century, at times of rapid social change and heightened anxiety, elites have often cracked down on “sodomites,” or lesbians, or both. At other times, dictatorial politicians have tried to co-opt LGBT people in an effort to consolidate their own power, and to make their governments appear liberal and modern. Despite these challenges, there is a vibrant LGBT rights movement today. Political scientist Karen Kampwirth and historian Victoria González-Rivera present a new history of Nicaragua, using sexuality as a lens with which to see what others have missed. Nicaraguan LGBT people have not received the attention they warrant in histories of the period, and sexuality studies scholars often assume that LGBT politics requires a model of capitalist development and transformation of the nuclear family that is largely found in the Global North and the richer countries of the Global South. By examining intersections among sexuality, state formation, and capitalist development in Nicaragua, this study shows that Nicaraguan history was not made solely by heterosexuals, that LGBT Nicaraguans were not socially marginal, and that the country’s past is understandable only by attending to sexuality. At the same time, the project demonstrates that LGBT history is not only the history of predominantly middle-class countries, and that LGBT people can organize for their own rights even absent particular economic and social conditions. This story has important lessons for a world in which most people live in the poorer countries of the Global South. This project builds on a two-decade-long collaboration between Kampwirth and González-Rivera, who together have completed multiple projects on gender, sexuality, and politics in Nicaragua. Award period: July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018