Ernesto Cardenal: An Important Figure in Nicaragua

Ernesto Cardenal was born in Granada, in January 1925, and is a well-known figure in Nicaragua. Not only was he actively involved in the politics of the country, but he is also a Catholic priest and a poet. His poetry is revered by literary enthusiasts the world over and he was instrumental in the literary community in Nicaragua. While living in the Solentiname Islands from 1965 to 1977, he established a primitivist art community, and has greatly influenced Nicaragua in various ways.

Cardenal began his literary studies in Managua, but due to being born into a wealthy family, he was able to expand his horizons and study in Mexico, as well as in New York, from 1947 to 1949, after which he traveled to Switzerland, Italy and Spain. On his return to Nicaragua in 1950, he became an active participant in the April Revolution, which took place in 1954, opposing the regime of Anastasio Somoza Garcia. He then decided to enter the Trappist Monastery of Gethsemani, but left for Mexico in 1959 where he studied theology. In 1965 he was ordained in Granada as a Catholic priest, becoming Reverend Father Ernesto Cardenal Martinez.

After he was ordained he moved to the Solentiname Islands to establish a Christian community. It was here that Cardenal wrote El Evangelio de Solentiname. Politically, the country was on edge, and the Sandinista National Liberation Front was working tirelessly to overthrow the Somoza regime. In 1977 the National Guard from the Somoza regime, in retaliation against an attack on San Carlos, burnt Solentiname to the ground, and Cardenal was forced to flee. In 1979 he was appointed Minister of Culture, when the Sandinista regime came into power. Pope John Paul II did not approve of Cardenal’s political involvement. He decided to leave the party in 1994.

Ernesto Cardenal was awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in 1980, was nominated for a Nobel Prize for his literary work in 2005 and received the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award. In regard to his literary work, most of the following poems gained him fame: The Doubtful Strait, Prayer for Marilyn Monroe, Cosmic Canticle, Zero Hour, Golden UFO’s, Psalms, Flights of Victory and Telescope in the Dark Night.