This article examines a 20-year border dispute between two adjacent southern interior municipalities in Nicaragua. The dispute acts as window into the politics of state formation and the consolidation of the dictatorship of Anastacio Somoza García (1936–1956). This conflict was waged by locally based “state actors” who contested each other's attempts to stake and extend spatially based claims to authority. Contending parties developed a shared language of contention that I call “administrative disorder”, which tracked closely with accusations of invasion and abuse of authority. Administrative disorder discourses were representational practices that contributed to the discursive construction of the state. They were also the means by which representatives of the state sought to justify or normalize their own activities. As such, these discourses concealed political tensions rooted in patronage networks, municipal formation, land privatization, and ethnic assimilation, which shaped the contours and longevity of the dispute, but remained lurking silences in administrative disorder discourses.