2 minute read

Ernesto Cardenal: 1925—: Poet

Became Spokesman For Sandinistas

Cardenal became increasingly involved with the Sand-inista National Liberation Front (FSLN). Named for Sandino, Nicaragua's revolutionary hero, the leftist group waged guerrilla warfare in its attempts to oust the Somoza government. Cardenal served as their field chaplain and international spokesperson. In 1972 he published Canto Nacional, which was dedicated to the FSLN. That same year a severe earthquake devastated Nicaragua, destroying Managua. An estimated 10,000 people were killed and 300,000 were left homeless. International aid poured in to help rebuild the country, but Somoza and his cronies diverted much of the relief money into their own accounts. When the news of these actions became known, the country was outraged. Anger increased when Somoza rigged the 1974 presidential elections, ensuring his continued reign. This anger led to more support for the FSLN.

In October of 1977 the Sandinistas launched an attack on Somoza's barracks in San Carlos. Many who participated in the attack were from Solentiname, and in retaliation the government destroyed the refuge. Fortunately, Cardenal had been ordered out of the country by the Somoza leadership days earlier. His role as the voice of the Sandinista movement was much too valuable to be jeopardized. The conflict escalated over the next two years, during which Cardenal fulfilled his role as spokesman, telling the world about the reality of the revolution. Finally, the Somoza regime fell and the Sandinistas took office on July 19, 1979. Cardenal returned home as the first Minister of Culture in Nicaragua's history. In that role he promoted literacy and held poetry workshops throughout the country. The National Catholic Reporter wrote, "By giving people their voices, he created a cultural rebirth in his country, and the recreation of national identity and pride among the working class." Though Cardenal was busy in his new role, he did produce one notable work, 1984's Flights of Victory: Songs in Celebration of the Nicaraguan Revolution.

Sadly things did not progress in Nicaragua under the Sandinistas, though strides were made in healthcare, literacy, and agriculture. Like the Somozas before them, top Sandinista officials began to amass great personal wealth at the expense of the people. And the new Reagan Administration in the United States, opposed to the Sandinista's Marxist philosophies, began supplying money and arms to guerrilla bands of counter-revolutionaries known as the Contras. Instead of the peaceful utopia that Cardenal had hoped for, Nicaragua was plunged into an economic and social depression. The Sandinista government, which had won the country's first post-revolution elections in 1984, became increasingly dictatorial, quashing opponents and terrorizing communities thought to provide refuge for the Contras. Cardenal began to distance himself from the FSLN, though he maintained his role as Minister of Culture until 1988.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Katie Burke (1953–) Biography - Personal to Galeazzo Ciano (1903–1944) BiographyErnesto Cardenal: 1925—: Poet Biography - Married Poetry To Politics, Found Inspiration In Religion, Became Spokesman For Sandinistas, Maintained Dream Of Utopia