Ron Garcia-Fogarty committed his life to working for social change at an early age. He started reading the newspaper regularly when he was in fourth grade living in Nicaragua during the Sandinista Revolution. He volunteered as part of the Nicaraguan Literacy Campaign, an experience that opened his eyes to realities other than his middle-class life.
Both of his parents devoted their time and energy to political activism and the revolution, and this constant exposure inspired him to commit his own time to social change. He is a national of Guatemala, Nicaragua, and the United States. He has worked for the rights of farm workers, indigenous people, women, and for many nonprofits in North Carolina.
Today he works at the tilde Language Justice Cooperative, an organization that unites language workers and works to advance language justice. He helped found it as an alternative model to corporations within the capitalist system of the U.S. Host Frank Stasio talks to Garcia-Fogarty about his upbringing and his perspective on the political upheaval in Central America today.
On his political awakening as a child:
I started reading the newspapers when I was in fourth grade, which is not what you would normally imagine a fourth grader doing, but ... A lot of people were political because we just lived in a very politicized time. There were a lot of divisions between family because people stood on different ends of the ideological aisle … Our family was not an exception. We had people on the right [and] on the left.
On grappling with his identity in college:
Growing up, even though there was this narrative [of the] US government is one thing … And US citizens are a whole other thing … I still had this internal struggle about [the fact that] the United States — which is one of the countries I belong to — is at war with Nicaragua, which is another country that's part of me.
On the power of language:
Language is a justice issue, and we focus a lot of our work around the concept of language justice — really allowing people to speak in their languages and trying to break that dynamic of English is the only language. We really should recognize all languages in our communities and allow people to communicate and to understand in the languages that they prefer.
On how the opposition in Nicaragua now compares to opposition movements of the past:
We're living in a time now [when] people live through so much violence and wars. We had a dictatorship for 43 years before [the revolution]. We had the liberals and conservatives constantly fighting each other during the revolution. There had been civil war. [The] overthrow in the first dictatorship had been by violent means. It was an armed revolution. But this time people are really leading a non-violent struggle. And I'm not saying there hasn't been any violence by non-government agents, but that the organized opposition has been leading the struggle [in a] non-violent way.