by joe courter
If you noticed on the upper right corner of the cover of this Iguana, this is “Vol. 30, Issue 1/2.” That means that this year will mark the 30th year that the Iguana has been publishing. (Okay, we did take time off between Jan. 2010 and March 2011.) The math tells you that 1986 marks when we started, and since then a lot has taken place. Like a good percentage of you readers were actually born, a fact which kinda boggles my mind.
1986, and that general time period, was a major time for events which are still playing out in major ways. It was in the Reagan era that a lot of banking and finance laws changed which allowed massive mergers and creative financial practices which set the wheels in motion for the financial crash of 2008. See the documentary “Inside Job” which lays this out really well.
It was in the ’80s that the Christian Right, and politicized evangelical groups such as the “Moral Majority,” were organized into powerful voting and lobbying blocks by Republican operatives. This led to attacks on women’s right to abortion, which then spurred a strong rise in the Feminist movement.
It was in 1986 that the height of the wars in Central America were impacting that area. The U.S.-funded Contras were waging an insurgency in Nicaragua against the elected Sandinistas, who overthrew 30-plus years of U.S.-supported dictatorship just six years earlier. In Guatemala and El Salvador, U.S.-supported governments were ruling with a cruel, murderous hand, leaving thousands of dead in their wake. The blowback from that period of destabilization in those two nations led directly to the roots of the wave of migration fleeing the violence in those countries.
It was out of organized resistance to Reagan’s Central American policies here in Gainesville that The Gainesville Iguana was born in October of 1986. There was a very active broad-based movement here in town, and for that matter, around the country. Demonstrations, letter writing campaigns, congressional visits, public education programs, material aide support, and weekly meetings were all going on as we tried to prevent an expanded war against Nicaragua. It was in this year that congress voted to end support for the Contra with the Boland Amendment, and then found the Reagan administration selling missiles to Iran to raise funds for their war efforts, leading to the Iran/Contra scandal. Jenny Brown and I, in meetings with others, thought maybe it was time for a newsletter to support all the organizing, and out of all that ferment came this paper.
Why the name? Well, as we were focused on Central America, where iguanas are as common as alligators are here, and people here already read The Alligator, we thought we could keep the reptilian theme, and with the bonus of alliteration came the Gainesville Iguana.
When the Iguana started, it was a newsletter mailed out to three combined lists—the Nicaragua solidarity anti-war list which had been growing, and the mailing lists of the Quakers and the Humanist Society of Gainesville. At first it was four folded legal-sized sheets, refined to sheets folded in half with a staple (like a booklet). Then in 1990, we switched to newsprint and the very form you are holding in your hands.
Thank you for reading this paper, we hope you get a lot from it. Or even a little bit. Your support is, of course, welcome, as is your input. We who work on it get no money to do it; it is all volunteer and always has been. Funding is grass roots. We pay the printer, put some gas in the tank to get to Jacksonville and back to pick up the printed issues, buy the envelopes and stamps. Why do we do it? It is a belief and commitment that an informed citizenry is a necessity for making the community and world a better place. This is our part. It is up to you to figure out yours. D