The Association of Nicaraguan Engineers and Architects (ANEA), founded in 1985, and the Nicaraguan American Medical Association (NAMA), founded in 1987, are the oldest Nicaraguan professional organizations among those currently active in Miami Dade County.
An antecedent of NAMA was the Asociación Médica Nicaragüense en el Exilio (Nicaraguan Medical Association in Exile), founded in the early 1980s. Led by then president Dr. Mario Bonilla, the main focus of the association formed by Nicaraguan physicians was accreditation or the reaccreditation of Nicaraguan physicians and other medical personnel in the United States.
Through intense lobby at the state legislature, the organization was able to get the inclusion of Nicaraguan physicians in a special program that facilitated preparatory training at the University of Miami in lieu of the certification program. This benefit was not extended to all immigrant physicians but like Cuban physicians, Nicaraguan physicians in exile were able to benefit from it.
Likewise other professional organizations, the Association of Nicaraguan Engineers and Architects (ANEA) was concerned since its foundation with issues pertaining to accreditation in the United States and continuum education, the establishment of relations with public agencies and community outreach in general.
In addition, ANEA (formerly known as ANIA) was also involved in social movements and other strategies related to stop deportations and in assisting Nicaraguans with the status issue. The involvement of Nicaraguan immigrant organizations in these issues was very common in the 1980s and 1990s.
ANEA and the Nicaraguan Medical Association in Exile provide an example of early cooperation in relation to issues pertaining accreditation. When the Nicaraguan Medical Association in Exile was pushing the accreditation agenda, ANEA supported it by giving up the presidency of the Federation of Nicaraguan Professional Organizations in Exile (FANPE in Spanish) to invest the Nicaraguan medical organization with more leverage for its lobby.
The efforts of the organizations to assist their professional in their reinsertion into the labor market were far from being redundant. Nicaraguan professionals had to face pressing issues associated with their labor market incorporation.
The most obvious problem was the gap in English proficiency with respect to the demands of the market for professional jobs. However, there were problems associated also with technological and gender gaps: “If the professionals in the field didn’t catch up with technology, they would stay behind. So we had language and technological gaps that we had to overcome. I came with my children. I had multiple obligations and couldn’t focus on all at once. It was hard. And it was hard for many Nicaraguans who were engineers, architects or had other professions, more so for women.” (interview with architect Martha Borgen, current member of the executive board of ANEA, Miami, 2010).
In the early 1990s ANEA had more than 200 members. This figure decreased dramatically throughout the years (it has about 50 members currently) as a result of a combination of factor which prominently include the return of some of its members to Nicaragua during the 1990s or their relocation in other states.
The Nicaraguan American Medical Association, currently led by Nicaraguan doctor Alberto Vargas, has been involved in Nicaragua mainly through professional exchanges with physicians there and through NAMA’s members support to humanitarian projects there.
Other Professional Organizations
Nicaraguan professionals have formed several organizations, although not all of them have had the high profile and community recognition enjoyed by ANEA and NAMA. The Nicaraguan American Journalists Society, currently led by Sergio Boffelli and the Nicaraguan American Teachers Association, whose president is Emilio Hernandez are currently active. At some point Nicaraguan dentists and accountants also had formed their professional associations.
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* The author appreciates the interviews granted by the leaders of the organizations and some members during her research in South Florida and Nicaragua and the supporting logistics and materials provided by them.