Childhood & Early Life
Anastasio Somoza Garcia aka Tacho was born on February 1, 1896 in San Marcos, Nicaragua. His father, Anastasio Somoza Reyes, was a coffee planter. His mother was named Julia Garcia.
When Anastasio was a teenager, he moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While studying in the United States, he met his future wife, Salvadora Debayle Sacasa, also a Nicaraguan exile.
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In 1926, Somoza joined an armed rebellion seeking to install his uncle as president of Nicaragua. Although the rebellion failed, the young man gained valuable experience as an interpreter working with negotiators from the United States.
In 1929, Jose Maria Moncada became president of Nicaragua. The spirited youth was tapped to be the governor of the province of Leon, the consul of Nicaragua in neighboring Costa Rica, and simultaneously also the Foreign Minister of Nicaragua.
In 1933, Somoza's uncle, Juan Bautista Sacasa, was elected president. Somoza was appointed as the head of the National Guard.
On February 21, 1934, he violated peace talks by having a rebel general assassinated.
In 1935, he ordered the National Guard to massacre several supporters of the assassinated rebel general and appropriate their land.
In June 1936, the authoritarian head of National Gaurd forced President Sacasa to resign. A series of weak rulers who were controlled by Somoza ruled the country for the rest of the year.
Despite widespread allegations of fraud and electoral abuse, Anastasio was improbably elected as president of Nicaragua, taking office on January 1, 1937.
In 1938, Somoza had the Constitution amended to cede almost all governing powers to the president. He then placed family members and allies in key positions throughout the government and military.
In 1939, American President Franklin D. Roosevelt admitted that Anastasio was a dictator, but excused his brutality by reputedly saying, "Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch."
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In 1941, the dictator declared war against Japan, Germany and Italy. No Nicaraguan troops ever fought in the war.
By 1944, he became the largest landowner in the country. Many of his properties had been acquired after he ordered the government to seize German-owned property.
Later in the year, the United States pressured the autocratic leader to promise not to run for re-election in 1947. He also temporarily legalized unions in Nicaragua.
In May 1947, Leonardo Arguello was elected president of Nicaragua. The autocrat tolerated him for three weeks. Somoza then installed his wife's uncle as president. Because foreign powers refused to recognize the government, Anastasio replaced his wife's uncle for his own uncle as president.
Only in mid-1948 did Somoza successfully get the United States to recognize his government again.
In 1950, despite widespread allegations of vote rigging and electoral fraud, he was elected president of Nicaragua.
In 1954, Somoza collaborated with the United States and sent troops to Guatemala to help overthrow their democratically-elected government.
In 1955, he amended the Constitution to allow him to compete for another term in office the following year.
Personal Life & Legacy
Anastasio married Salvadora Debayle Sacasa in 1919. Together, they had two sons, Luis Somoza Debayle and Anastasio Somoza Debayle. Their sons would later both also become president of Nicaragua.
The couple also had a daughter, Lillian Somoza Debayle de Sevilla Sacasa. Anastasio had a son, Jose R. Somoza, born to an unknown mother.
On September 21, 1956, a poet shot Somoza in the city of Leon. Eight days later, the authoritarian leader died from his injuries. His family went on to rule the country for the next two decades.