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  • The Duke

    Written by on at 8:51 AM

    On 26, May, 1907, John Wayne was born in Iowa. He would go on to become one of Hollywood’s most recognized actors.

    Forced to drop out of college after an injury preventing his further participation on the football team and he lost his athletic scholarship, Wayne took odd jobs at the Hollywood studios, eventually appearing in walk on roles and tiny speaking parts. His commercial breakthrough would be made in the 1939 film, ‘Stagecoach’, followed by a series of westerns and war pictures that would make him known around the world.

    Wayne became the epitome of the American cowboy, soldier, and all around reliable, tough-guy. He would play the lead in 142 films. Wayne was nominated for three Academy Awards, winning once for Best Actor in a Leading Role in 1969.

    His status grew so large he became an object of interest to world leaders. Wayne spoke Spanish fluently and became a close friend of Panamanian leader Omar Torrijos. Wayne would later speak on behalf of the Panama Canal Treaty when it became a domestic political issue in the United States. When Japanese Emperor Hirohito visited the United States in 1975, he asked to meet John Wayne, the symbolic representation of his country's former enemy.

    Despite his prominent association with conservative political causes, it is reported that his acting abilities were admired by everyone from Richard Nixon to Joseph Stalin. When Wayne was nominated for a Congressional Gold Medal in 1979, liberal Democrat Robert Aldrich spoke on Wayne’s behalf, saying in part, “Because of his courage, his dignity, his integrity, and because of his talents as an actor, his strength as a leader, his warmth as a human being throughout his illustrious career, he is entitled to a unique spot in our hearts and minds.” Wayne was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on June 9, 1980, by President Jimmy Carter.

    His grave is marked with a comment he made in a 1971 interview, "Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday."

  • Indigenous Army

    Written by on at 8:51 AM

    18 May marks the birth of Nicaraguan nationalist, Augusto Sandino, in 1895.

    From 1927 to 1933, Sandino led a rebellion against US Military occupation of his country.

    Sandino was the illegitimate child of a wealthy Spanish landowner and his indigenous house servant. At 17, Sandino witnessed the intervention in Nicaragua by United States troops, sent to suppress an uprising against President Adolfo Díaz, who many regarded as a United States puppet. This action helped to radicalize Sandino. In his youth, Sandino worked in an oil field and as a clerk at a gold mine, traveling through Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. In these travels he met and befriended activists from an array of radical groups, including anti-clerics, Communists, Anarchists, Anti-Imperialists, Spiritualists, and advocates for indigenous peoples.    

    In 1926, Sandino became involved in a struggle against the Nicaraguan government, which again at the time was viewed as a pawn of the United States. When a peace was brokered in the conflict by the United States, Sandino felt that the revolutionary forces had been betrayed and in 1927 he founded ‘The Army in Defense of the National Sovereignty of Nicaragua’ and made his first attack on a column of US Marines. Efforts to kill or capture Sandino were continually thwarted. Having eluded the Marines, Sandino began to attack gold mines and coffee plantations.

    Sandino began to capture the attention of the American public, and was frequently quoted in TIME magazine. Sandino’s half-brother was a resident of New York City and organized rallies in support of the Nicaraguan cause. By 1928, The US Congress had grown weary of the expensive Nicaraguan adventure and refused to allocate any further funds to the matter. One Senator commented that if the US wanted to use the military to apprehend ‘bandits’ (as Sandino was termed) then they should send Marines to Chicago rather than Nicaragua. The onset of the Great Depression made the US presence in Nicaragua even more untenable and in January 1931 Henry Stimson, then Secretary of State, announced that all U.S. soldiers in Nicaragua would be withdrawn following the 1932 election in the country. After the Marines departed, Sandino said, "I salute the American people" and vowed he would never attack a working-class American who visited Nicaragua.

    Sandino and his half-brother were ambushed and executed on February 21, 1934. In 2010, the Congress of Nicaragua unanimously named a Sandino, "national hero".