Black Autonomy
Race, Gender, and Afro-Nicaraguan Activism
Jennifer Goett



This book has been a long time in the making, and I owe a debt of gratitude to the many individuals who have helped me bring it to completion. First and foremost, the book would not have been possible without the friendship and solidarity of Monkey Point people. It is with profound gratitude that I dedicate this work to them. Community elders, Miss Bernicia Duncan, Miss Helen Presida, Miss Pearl Marie Watson, Miss Lucille Presida, Mr. Limbert Sambola, and Miss Christina Cooper, shared more knowledge and wisdom about the past than any history book could offer. Allen Clair, Carla Chow, Carla Sinclair, Catherine Clair, Harley Clair, Rolando Clair, Morl Sambola, James Sambola, Gloria Sambola, Leonardo Sambola, George Sambola, Ruby Centeno, Darren Wilson, Charleene Solís, Estelle Duncan, Sullivan Quinn, Edward Duncan, Hubert Duncan, Arleen MacElroy, Isis Lampson, Sandra Morales, Charles Watson, and Robin Archibold each lent me their time and insight over the years.

In Bluefields, I thank my dear friends Carla James, Tavia James, Shirley James, Helen Fenton, Vanesa Almendares, and Brenda Wilson. Galio Gurdián, Maricela Kauffmann, and Fernanda Soto offered camaraderie, intellectual inspiration, and a warm welcome each time I landed in Managua. I hope that I can repay their kindness someday. My respect and admiration go to Maria Luisa Acosta, Dolene Miller, and Nora Newball for their willingness to collaborate and steadfast defense of autonomous rights.

The project first developed under the guidance of faculty at the University of Texas at Austin. I could not have hoped for better mentors than Edmund T. Gordon and Charles R. Hale. Their intellectual generosity and support for activist scholarship made the research for this book possible. Kamala Visweswaran encouraged me to assertively claim my work as feminist ethnography and offered me countless big and small favors over the years. Juliet Hooker provided inspiration and a rich body of work with which to engage. I am also blessed with a large cohort of brilliant peers from the University of Texas who have challenged me to be a better scholar. Special thanks go to Diya Mehra, Courtney Morris, Shaka McGlotten, Marc Perry, Roosbelinda Cardenas, Keisha-Khan Perry, Pablo González, Melissa Forbis, Nick Copeland, Christine Labuski, Ajb’ee Jiménez, Edwin Matamoros, Melesio Peter, Gilberto Rosas, Korinta Maldonado, Juli Grigsby, Lynn Selby, Mariana Mora, Mohan Ambikaipaker, Ronda Brulotte, Vivian Newdick, Angela Stuesse, Ritu Khanduri, and Teresa Velásquez.

Many other individuals contributed to the project in important ways. Mark Anderson, Ellen Moodie, Brandt Peterson, Christopher Loperena, Miguel González, and Ben Chappell took time out of their busy schedules to read all or parts of the manuscript. I am grateful for their willingness to engage my work and for their sharp insights. Any shortcomings that remain are mine alone. Alicia Estrada, Felipe Pérez, Marilyn Sinkewicz, Cale Layton, Elana Zilberg, Justin Wolfe, Bill Girard, Breny Mendoza, Suyapa Portillo, Dolores Figueroa, Christen Smith, Dána-Ain Davis, Christa Craven, Josh Mayer, Daniel Goldstein, Faye Harrison, Peter Wade, and Karl Offen each offered input or encouragement along the way. At Michigan State University, I extend my gratitude to Laurie Medina, Colleen Tremonte, Gene Burns, Mark Largent, and Peter Murray. I am lucky to have such generous colleagues. I would also like to recognize the National Science Foundation, IIE Fulbright, the University of Texas at Austin, Michigan State University, and James Madison College for funding various stages of research and writing.

Finally, there are a number people who played instrumental roles in bringing the final manuscript to completion. My professorial assistant Ansel Courant did a tremendous amount of hard work organizing and transcribing more than a decade’s worth of interviews. Kerry Ann Rockquemore taught me how to get the words on the page and out the door. Michelle Jacob kept me on track with weekly check-in calls and a great deal of sage advice. Robert and Gail Piepenburg provided me with a calm and beautiful place to write. I thank two anonymous readers for Stanford University Press for their helpful comments on the manuscript; my editor Michelle Lipinski for her patience, professionalism, and faith in the project; and editorial assistant Nora Spiegel and copy editor Margaret Pinette for their skillful guidance through the final stages of publication. I owe special thanks to Karen Spencer for granting me permission to use her beautiful painting on the cover of the book. My love and appreciation go to my family for everything they have done for me and to my husband, Waseem El-Rayes, whom I adore.