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Last Updated: 05/20/2004Revolution as Poetry
Regina Eddelman takes her first trip to Nicaragua and finds a nation of poets.
Rivers run through me
Mountains bore into my body
And the geography of this country
Begins forming in me
Turning me into lakes, chasms, ravines,
Earth for sowing love
Opening like a furrow
Filling me with a longing to live
To see it free, beautiful,
Full of smiles.
I want to explode with love…
I have only been to Nicaragua once and it was a short trip. But in the small amount of time I was there Nicaragua got under my skin. I traveled alone the first few days I was there, trying to meet up with friends that were already in León. It was the Christmas holiday so the immigration from Costa Rica into Nicaragua was packed full of people trying to get home to be with their families. Nighttime was falling so I decided to go to San Juan Del Sur with some surfers I had met in the lines. This small town close to the border was on the coast with old boats in the bay and damaged buildings, but it also carried with it a feeling of character and history I had not felt since being in Central America. I talked to a local Nicaraguan my age that had grown up during the Contra War. He told me of his cousins that fought for the Sandinistas and how they still had the dog tags from the men they shot and were proud to show them off. He pointed to the church where there were gun shot holes that remained in the steeple and he told me of the proliferation of Kalashnikovs that still posed a problem in the country. I thought how we were the same age but he knew how it felt to have a war on his own land, in the small town he grew up in, where I had no concept. There was a younger Nicaraguan sitting with us that got up and left because he could not believe we were talking about such things as war and guns. I found it strange that just a generation later would have such a different attitude, maybe being too young to remember, maybe just glad he could surf everyday.
The next days I traveled along with other locals on old school buses, crammed as full as you can get from town to town on my way to catch up with my friends. If there were only three people on one seat, they would put a five-inch extension cushion to fit a fourth person. The woman sitting next to me on the ride from Managua to León let her baby’s head rest in the cradle of my arm the whole way. You realize in these situations how the world blends together with you as a part. This all added to my rich experience of the culture and people in Nicaragua.
My experiences helped me to understand why Nicaraguans have such a valuable culture and why poetry is the most valued in the country. It all seemed poetic to me, but their experiences go much deeper. It began with the most famous Nicaraguan and Latin American poet, Rubén Darío, and has become a proud literary tradition. Salman Rushdie speaks of it in his book, The Jaguar Smile: A Nicaraguan Journey, “I did not think I had ever seen a people, even in India and Pakistan where poets were revered, who valued poetry as much as the Nicaraguans.” The revolution nurtured this passion with most of the Sandinista leaders being poets and writers, putting their love of the prose aside for the love of their country. Giaconda Belli, the winner of Casa de las Américas prize, spoke to Rushdie of how she had decided she would make her work for the revolution “the best poem I can write”.
Regina Eddelman is from Texas, and is ciurrently doing post-graduate work in Costa Rica