Jungle, Beaches, Volcanoes and... Poetry!

One of Nicaragua's many volcanoes

A beautiful beach in Nicaragua's Corn Islands

Nicaragua may not be the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of culture - a small, jungle-covered Central American nation dotted with soaring volcanic peaks and idyllic white-sand beaches. However, this little-known Latin American destination punches well above its weight when it comes to the arts, most notably in the field of poetry! 

That’s right, Nicaragua is world-renowned for producing some of the best poets in the world, recognised for their excellence both at home and internationally. And Nicaraguans are, quite rightly, proud of the impressive poems that have increasingly put them on the map. The reasons for Nicaragua’s poetic success can, like most things, be traced back to a long and fascinating history.

Modernismo, Dictatorship and Civil War

Poetry in Nicaragua has long been used to comment on the social and political context of the country, and has served as a way for citizens of all stripes to express their hopes, fears and dreams. Undoubtedly one of the most famous poets in Nicaragua, and indeed the world, was Rubén Darío, generally credited as the founder of the immensely influential Spanish American literary movement Modernismo. Darío’s work inspired a generation of Nicaraguan poets, from a range of backgrounds and social classes. This period, in which poetry began to flourish, was cut short by the rise of the Somoza dynasty, a father-son military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1936 to 1979.

Grave of Nicaraguan poet and national hero Rubén Darío

A photo capturing the dramatic Sandinista Revolution

1979 saw the overthrow of the Somoza family during the Nicaraguan Revolution, led by the Sandinista National Liberation Front. This organisation, as a representative of the Nicaraguan working class, established poetry circles and free poetry courses for Nicaraguans around the country, even as Nicaragua descended into a bloody civil war. This kept the nation’s long and storied poetic tradition alive even during one of the most difficult periods of the country’s history. 

Poetry Revival

Granada, beautiful host city of Nicaragua's International Poetry Festival

Today, Nicaragua’s poets have well and truly made a comeback, with a range of high-profile figures in the country promoting poetry. Ernesto Cardenal, a religious, artistic and political figure who passed away just this year, was renowned for using poetry to criticise and hold accountable a range of governments in Nicaragua. And Rosario Murillo, current first lady of the country, is a well-known poet whose works are widely celebrated. Moreover, both local talent and international guests alike are able to showcase their considerable skills at the International Poetry Festival of Granada, held in a beautiful colonial city less than an hour from Nicaragua’s capital.

A sample of Nicaragua's poetry....

It’s time to take a look at some of Nicaragua’s poetry itself! See how you go with three beautiful pieces; Amo, Amas by Rubén Darío; De pronto suena en la noche una sirena by Ernesto Cardenal; and lastly the (slightly trickier) Las dificultades de ser un poeta, by Rosario Murillo. 

Amo, amas (I love, you Love), por Rubén Darío

Rubén Darío

Amar, amar, amar, amar siempre, con todo
el ser y con la tierra y con el cielo,
con lo claro del sol y lo oscuro del lodo;
amar por toda ciencia y amar por todo anhelo.

Y cuando la montaña de la vida
nos sea dura y larga y alta y llena de abismos,
amar la inmensidad que es de amor encendida
¡y arder en la fusión de nuestros pechos mismos!

De pronto suena en la noche una sirena (Suddenly a siren rings out in the night), por Ernesto Cardenal

Ernesto Cardenal

De pronto suena en la noche una sirena
de alarma, larga, larga,
el aullido lúgubre de la sirena
de incendio o de la ambulancia blanca de muerte,
como el grito de la cegua en la noche,
que se acerca y se acerca sobre las calles
y las casas y sube, sube, y baja
y crece, crece, baja y se aleja
creciendo y bajando.
No es incendio ni muerte:
Es Somoza que pasa.

Las dificultades de ser un poeta (The difficulties of being a poet), por Rosario Murillo

Rosario Murillo

Quería escribirte un poema
de aquellos nuestros con palabras mezcladas
fresco como la grama del patio
repleto como la tinaja debajo del alero
quería escribirte este poema que te estoy diciendo
pero ya ves que no pude
tuve que agotar mis dedos interminablemente
hacer montones de sobres
doblar papeles cerrar los sobres sellarlos
tuve que alzar el teléfono y responder melodiosa
no, no está, no ha venido
sí, como nó, pase usted
tuve que hacerme sonrisa en cuatro dientes
contestar las preguntas
meterme y salirme de vos miles de veces
pero aunque así,
entrecortado apretujado malhumorado y todo
aún así te parí en esta tarde
con cuatrocientos cincuenta sobres con nombre y dirección
y una fila de incansable preguntones
sobándose la barriga complacidamente. 



Have you fallen in love with Nicaragua’s beautiful poetry? Check out one of El Patio’s Spanish courses to help you delve into even more complex and lovely poems! Or, use our Spanish classes to prepare for a trip to Nicaragua, so that you’re ready to go once our travel situation improves!

Not sure which course is right for your Spanish level? Test your Spanish level now!

Ready to start learning? Find a class and enrol now!

By Sasha Gillies-Lekakis
August 4, 2020



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