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Literature in Nicaragua

Nicaraguan literature not only holds its own in the Latin American art world, but has made an unparalleled imprint on the history of literature as a whole. With a compact series of literary movements and only a handful of well-known writers, it's somewhat surprising that the country has produced a body of writing that has proven itself to be so aesthetically and politically powerful. What's most important to realize is that literature in this country is celebrated like almost no where else; poets are respected, revered and recited.

The first significant work produced in Nicaragua was the esteemed satirical drama El Güegüense, a witty and ironic song and dance performance written in the 17th century. While the author remains anonymous, this post-Columbian composition has played a considerable role in Nicaraguan culture, so much so that it was named a UNESCO Master Play of the Oral and Immaterial Patrimony of Humanity. El Güegüense is still preformed in Nicaragua each year towards the end of January, during the feast of San Sebastian.

The Modernismo movement that sprang from Nicaragua in the late 19th and early 20th centuries is held in high regard among Nicaraguans and the literary public. This is due largely in part to the "father of modernism", Nicaragua's own Ruben Darí­o. A blend of European Symbolism, Romanticism, and Parnassism, Modernismo expresses passion and rhythm, the idea of art solely for art's sake, and rich verbal harmonies. While the literature was mainly socially neutral, the political climate in Nicaragua at the time demanded that some works speak of social order and the innate struggle of Latin America's indigenous people.

This politically charged literature seems to have been picked up by the poetry that came after Modernismo and the later Vanguardia movement. Both brought forth strong and radical writers, most prominently Ernesto Cardenal-- the Nicaraguan Catholic priest who promoted liberation theology, the arts, and the Sandinista regime-- and José Coronel Urtecho, who began Vanguardia in Granada in the late 1920's.

These movements confronted once untouchable themes such as religion, politics, and sexuality, and they dared to suggest new novel forms. The Sandinista government at the time promoted literature and the arts in Nicaragua, and from that came immense support and contribution from a political angle. Many who were imprisoned for political involvement against the Somoza regime used their prison sentences as an opportunity to create poetry.

Major literary contributors, aside from those already mentioned, include: Gioconda Belli--radical and sexual, Belli is considered one of the 100 most important poets in the 20th century; Sergio Ramirez Mercado--head of the "Group 12", intellectuals who publicly supported the Frente Sandinista de Liberation Nacional (FSLN); Tomás Borge--former Nicaraguan Head of State Security; and Daniel Ortega--current president of Nicaragua.

For more on literature from and about Nicargua, see Suggested Reading for Nicaragua.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Nicaragua : Art in Nicaragua, Dance in Nicaragua, Introduction to Nicaraguan Culture, Cigar Box and Ruben Dario.

By Margaret Rode
A self-professed city girl, sassy staff writer Margaret Rode hails from Chicago where she received Bachelor degrees in English Literature and Spanish...
16 Mar 2009

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