Literature, Languages, Culture
Nicaraguan literature, and especially poetry, has played a massive role in the culture of Nicaraguans. Margaret Randall wrote: “Throughout Nicaraguan culture, the poet is the high priest.” ('Risking a Somersault in the Air') Likewise Salman Rushdie expressed similar words after visiting Nicaragua during the 1980s. During his stay he found himself amidst a mass of poets fighting for a cause.
Interestingly, a large number of revolutionary leaders were also writers who had published works. This included Tomás Borge, who served as the Head of State Security, as well as President Daniel Ortega. These brave literary masters used their prison sentences as an opportunity to create fantastic collections of poetry. The Sandinista government promoted Nicaraguan literature and the arts. The world renowned Father Ernesto Cardenal lead poetry workshops and organized the publishing of various materials.
The first major work of Nicaraguan literature was ‘Macho Ratón’, also known as ‘El Güegüense’. The author of the comedic play, which was published during the 17th century, is unknown. Written in the Castilian and Nahuatl languages, ‘Macho Ratón’ is an fascinating blend of Spanish and indigenous music and other factors. The main character of the play wittingly tricks the play’s local authorities who are meant to stand for Spanish conquerors during the colonial era. UNESCO has since named the play “Master Play of the Oral and Immaterial Patrimony of Humanity” due to its deep representation.
Rubén Darío is Nicaragua’s most famed poet, an icon of Nicaraguan culture. He introduced a new style called Modernism to Nicaraguan literature, in fact, to Spanish literature too. Darío’s repertoire is expansive and his works have been published in a number of languages. Due to the massive impact Darío had on Nicaraguan literature he has been honored throughout the country; even his place of birth has been renamed after him. An image of the great poet, journalist and diplomat can be seen daily on the 100 córdoba bill and his name appears on bookstores and libraries everywhere. Many modern poets in Nicaragua continue to draw on the works of Rubén Darío for inspiration.
Gioconda Belli is also a renowned Nicaraguan poet who was designated amongst the 100 most important poets during the 20th century. Other well-known names in Nicaraguan literature are Ernesto Cardenal, Azarías Pallais, Alfonso Cortés, Salomón la Selva and Servio Ramírez. The city of Granada has also been a major part of Nicaraguan literary history. “Vanguardia” poets like Joaquín Pasos and Pablo Cuadra resided here in the 1920s/30s. Pasos is best known for his magnificent poem “War Song of Things”.
Why not look for some of the works of these influential literary figures from Nicaragua? You will quickly appreciate why Nicaragua is so proud of its poets, playwrights and authors.