Dora María Téllez

Visiting Research Scholar, Program in Latin American Studies (June through August, 2023)

Dora María Téllez is a Nicaraguan historian, politician, and social rights activist. She was a prominent Sandinista guerrilla commander in the popular struggle against the Somoza military dictatorship in Nicaragua in the 1970’s. She served as representative and vice president of the Council of State and as Minister of Health during Nicaragua’s revolutionary government (1979-1990). In 1995, she parted ways with the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) due to its authoritarian drift, and co-founded the Sandinista Renovation Movement (MRS), now called Unamos. Téllez has since been a vocal opponent to the consolidation of a new dictatorship in Nicaragua led by President Daniel Ortega. She was imprisoned for 20 months and held in isolation and total deprivation of rights for denouncing the authoritarian nature of the government and its human rights violations. In February 2023 she was banished and expatriated from Nicaragua to the United States as part of a group of 222 political prisoners, who were also illegally stripped of their Nicaraguan nationality. Her struggle for democracy, social justice and defense of human rights has been internationally recognized. She has been awarded numerous accolades, including the 2022 René Cassin Prize in Human Rights awarded by the Government of the Basque Country, Spain.

Téllez has also developed a career as a historian. She is the author of books and academic publications, including ¡Muera La Gobierna! (1999), which documents the internal colonization of indigenous lands by the Nicaraguan state in Matagalpa and Jinotega between 1820 and 1890, and was coauthor of El Café de Nicaragua (2014), on the impact of the development of coffee production in Nicaragua in the 19th and 20th centuries. She has also published various essays on the challenges of democracy and democratic governance, citizen security and the criminal justice system, the role and evolution of social movements, the social and political exclusion of indigenous and other minoritized communities, and the evolution of Sandinismo. Téllez was incorporated into the Nicaraguan Academy of Geography and History and the Guatemalan Academy of Geography and History. She has also received two honorary doctorates from the University of Helsinki (2011) and from the Sorbonne-Nouvelle University (2022).

Téllez's visiting fellowship was made possible with the support from the Program in Latin American Studies (PLAS), the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS), and the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA).