Assistant Professor of Spanish Daniel Chávez has published a book that looks at Nicaraguan politics and history through culture. “Nicaragua and the Politics of Utopia: Development and Culture in the Modern State” (Vanderbilt University Press, 2015) examines this impoverished nation’s cyclical attempts and failures at modern development. Chávez investigates the cultural and ideological bases of what he identifies as the three decisive movements of social reinvention in Nicaragua: the regimes of the Somoza family of much of the early to mid-twentieth century, the governments of the Sandinista party, and the present-day struggle to adapt to the global market economy. For each era, Chávez reveals the ways Nicaraguan popular culture adapted and interpreted the new political order, shaping, critiquing or amplifying the regime’s message of stability and prosperity for the people. These tactics of interpretation, otherwise known as meaning-making, became all-important for the Nicaraguan people, as they opposed the autocracy of Somocismo, or complemented the Sandinistas or struggled to find their place in the Neoliberal era. In every case, Chávez shows the reflective nature of cultural production and its pursuit of utopian idealism.
Chávez’s research interests include U.S. Latina/o and Latin American film and visual culture, U.S. Latina/o crime fiction, 20th and 21st century Latina/o and Latin American literature and cultural studies, and Central American and Mexican novels and poetry. Chávez teaches advanced Spanish language and critical analysis courses at UNH.