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Teacher Plans Tribute Marking Sandinista Coup

June 01, 1989|SANTIAGO O'DONNELL | Times Staff Writer

Bearded, eyes bright with revolutionary fervor, Carlos Ugalde sits on his living room couch, pawing through a photo album filled with vivid images of what he describes as U.S.-financed atrocities in Latin America.

The waste, the sorrow, the misery he has seen are beyond measure, says the Glendale Community College assistant professor of ethnic studies. He puts down one photo album and reaches for another.

Then Ugalde, 44, son of a widowed Mexican day laborer from San Diego and immersed in what he calls the struggles of his forefathers, erupts, grinning: "We have to educate and document, brother, so people can write their congressmen."

He holds his prize picture, taken during the first of seven trips to Central America. It shows Ugalde celebrating New Year's Eve in Managua 10 years ago among rifle-waving Sandinistas. "Aaah," he says. "The most beautiful revolution of them all."

Glendale is no Nicaragua, but don't tell that to Ugalde. Today at 11 a.m. on the college campus, he will host a 10th anniversary celebration of the Sandinista coup that overthrew Anastasio Somoza.

Much of Ugalde's speech material will come from a paid 12-month sabbatical that he was awarded by the board of trustees last year to visit Central and South America's worst trouble spots, including Nicaragua. The college's public affairs office has sent out press releases promoting today's event, to be held in Krieder Hall.

Encouraged by that support, Ugalde hopes attendance will at least equal that of a slide presentation he gave in April, which, he boasts, drew a standing-room-only crowd of 150 students and faculty.

"I was impressed," said college trustee Robert K. Holmes, who attended. "He seems to have traveled a lot and met a lot of interesting people. What he teaches is subjective, like all politics, but I don't care one way or another."

Glendale Councilman Carl Raggio, a former trustee of the college, couldn't disagree more. "I understand the freedom of academia, but a tribute to the Sandinistas is an abuse of that privilege," he said.

"I think it's in poor taste and a lie in the face of our community," Raggio said. "His attendance today will show just how much support he has here."

The Sandinista revolution actually didn't take place until July 19, but Ugalde has moved up the celebration so that it won't be during the students' summer break.

Ugalde makes his case against U.S. policy in Central America by juxtaposing photos of hunger victims and war with anti-American demonstrations and Cuba's Fidel Castro haranguing the masses.

The pictures, which Ugalde uses constantly in his college lectures, seem to make a strong impression in the classroom. "He's very popular with the students," Holmes said.

The college's Latin American student organization, for example, named Ugalde its academic adviser and has agreed to sponsor the Sandinista tribute.

Ugalde doesn't say how he thinks that his photos are going to change the world.

But, pointing to familiar faces, switching back and forth from Spanish to English for dramatic effect, Ugalde appears to be transported to a dreamland of romantic adventure. What memories: teen-age guerrillas in El Salvador willing to give their lives for the revolution; striking Bolivian copper miners standing up for their rights; Chilean students picking up tear gas bombs and throwing them back at the charging Carabineros.

Having witnessed such incidents, Ugalde has no doubt of his own role in the revolutionary struggle. "My trench is the classroom," he declares.

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