RONALD REAGAN, Nicaragua -- When the Sandinistas took power in 1979, streets, neighborhoods and towns were renamed in honor of Augusto Sandino, Carlos Fonseca and other nationalist heroes.
Yet barely a year after the Sandinistas were voted out of office, an impoverished village has taken the name of the man once considered by Managua as public enemy number one.
Residents of Los Garreadores voted last month to christen their village Ronald Reagan.
'We held a meeting and everyone agreed on the change,' said Raul Espinoza, 68, the village patriarch. 'This ex-president helped us a lot. Because of him, the nation lives in democracy.'
Espinoza said Reagan is admired by the town's residents for his fervant support of the Contra rebels who fought the Sandinista army for nine years. They say the war helped Violeta Chamorro become president when she defeated the Sandinistas in the February 1990 elections.
Most of the community is anti-Sandinista because residents saw no improvements during 11 years of revolutionary government, said Arnulfo Espinoza, Raul's cousin. He said just one person in the village voted for Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega, who lost to Chamorro.
Ronald Reagan, Nicaragua, has little in common with the Gipper's former White House digs or his California ranch.
Located 20 miles southwest of Managua, it consists of 159 people, a few dozen huts and plenty of dust. When the road ends at the neighboring town of Gutierrez Norte, residents walk along a dried up riverbed for another mile to get to Ronald Reagan.
Beat-up shanties bake in the sun and naked toddlers chase after roosters. Men in ragged clothes work small plots of corn and beans.
The lack of development was another motive for the name change. Raul Espinoza said the new name could mean publicity and aid. There is a plan to send Reagan a letter in the hope of sparking the former president's interest, but so far no one has gotten around to writing it.
The village has been trying to get a school built for years with no luck. Children walk to Gutierrez Norte for classes but Espinoza said the route is dangerous because the river floods during the rainy season.
Electricity and water would also be nice, he added.
The new name, Espinoza said, is a big improvement because Los Garreadores -- the Spanish word for a type of biting ant -- wasn't much liked.
The village was also known as Las Espinocitas because almost everyone who lives here is part of the Espinoza clan. But that name is confusing because there is another Las Espinocitas a few miles away.
Instead of getting help, the village has been criticized for its initiative.
While admired by some Nicaraguans, Reagan is considered an assassin by others because the Contras were the pet project of his administration. The war, which ended last year after Chamorro's election, left 60,000 Nicaraguans dead and caused billions of dollars in damages.
'To me, it seems crazy,' said a resident of Gutierrez Norte when told of the name change.
The pro-Sandinista newspaper El Nuevo Diario called the name a humiliation and suggested local politicians alligned with Chamorro had pressured residents into renaming the village.
Edgar Cerda, a town official in neighboring San Rafael del Sur and a member of Chamorro's National Opposition Union coalition, or UNO, said he was at the ceremony when the village was renamed Ronald Reagan but said the idea came from the community.
Cerda added that the new name is official and said the village is now registered as Ronald Reagan in the municipal archives at San Rafael del Sur.
Raul Espinoza said the decision reflects the will of the people. He added that the village at first considered naming itself after a Nicaraguan, such as Violeta Chamorro, but hedged its bets.
'We don't know how well the new president is going to work out,' he said. 'The community is poor and we decided to look to a foreigner to see if he could help us. It's a plan to gain some attention and aid.'