Nicaraguan Poet Receives Prestigious Award

Ernesto Cardenal has long been recognized as one of the iconic literary figures of Nicaragua who has played an important role in the development of the country as an independent nation. He is also a Catholic priest and served as Nicaragua’s minister of culture from 1979 to 1987. But it is in his role as poet that Ernesto Cardenal was recently awarded the Queen Sofia Ibero-American Poetry Prize for his contribution to the cultural legacy of Latin America and Spain.

Established twenty-one years ago, the Queen Sofia Ibero American Poetry Prize is presented to, and honors, a living author as an acknowledgement of his or her contribution to literature, rather than being presented posthumously to family members or the community as is often the case with great luminaries. Spanish poets Maria Victoria Atencia and Antonio Colinas were among the finalists for the prize, but after prolonged deliberations by the jury – which included Director of the Royal Spanish Academy Jose Manuel Blecua, and writers Soledad Puertolas, Jaime Siles, Antonio Lobo Antunes, Luis Antonio de Villena and Luis Alberto de Cuenca – the prize was awarded to Cardenal.

Born in January 1925 in Granada, Ernesto Cardenal started his education in Managua, continuing his studies in Mexico and New York, before traveling through Italy, Spain and Switzerland. In July 1950, he returned to his homeland where he joined in the 1954 April Revolution against the Somoza regime. After the failure of the coup de’état, which resulted in many deaths, Cardenal spent time at the Trappist Monastery in Kentucky, USA, later studying theology in Cuernavaca, Mexico. In 1965 Ernesto Cardenal was ordained a Catholic priest in Granada and he later founded a Christian community on the Solentiname Islands, which developed into an artists’ colony. His interest in the welfare of fellow Nicaraguans led him to be involved in the changes in the country over the following decades, all the while contributing to the Nicaragua’s literary heritage.

Other awards received by Ernesto Cardenal include the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade; the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award; and the Pablo Neruda Ibero American Poetry Prize. He was among the nominees for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005 and participated in the international project the Exchange of Visions in 2007 in which international visionaries shared their expertise and wisdom.