SEVEN DAYS IN NICARAGUA LIBRE

nicaragua

DAVID VOLPENDESTA
NICARAGUA LIBRE: A CONVERSATION WITH
LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI
POETRY FLASH . 1984

The first campaign to be carried out in Nicaragua after the July Revolution of 1979 was a literacy campaign. Campesinos, workers, the unemployed, the alienated, the young and old, even captured members of the ex-dictator’s army were taught how to read and write: they were given the basic, functional, formal powers of The Word. Symbolically, this fact in a country which is predominantly Catholic and has often been called ‘the land of the poets’ is highly significant, as well as being practically useful, given that Nicaragua is preparing to have its first democratic elections in over 50 years. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, always the poet, the painter and the citizen, spent the week of January 27th to February 3rd, 1984, in Nicaragua. He was invited there by the Minister of Culture, Ernesto Cardenal, when he came to San Francisco in December. Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Books has recently published a book of poetry, Volcan, that has introduced many voices from Honduras, EI Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, that are being heard for the first time in North America. The following interview was conducted at City Lights Bookstore on March 18th, 1984.

DAVID: Did you have any preconceived notions of the poetic and political climate in Nicaragua before you went there? If so, what were your thoughts?

LAWRENCE: Oh yes, I had a lot of preconceived notions about Nicaragua before I went there. Like all American citizens I was a victim of the propaganda of the Reagan Administration against Nicaragua. You know, Nicaragua is supposed to be this Red Communist state. I went to see for myself. I paid my own way to Nicaragua because I didn’t want to burden the Nicaraguans with my expenses nor did I want any accusations being made by the CIA. The Reagan Administration would have us believe that there are Red Communists everywhere, just like Senator McCarthy and the old UnAmerican Activities Committee. The fact is that three percent of the Nicaraguan population belong to the Communist Party and eight percent belong to the Socialist Party. That’s eleven percent of the population. If people would only read a few basic texts they’d see what the difference is between Socialism and Soviet Communism. The Nicaraguans want to build a democratic socialist government. They are going to have elections there in November. I had a long talk with Foreign Minister Miquel D’Escoto and Daniel Ortega about this. People there are studying electoral law. There is a Socialist Government in Greece. The U.S. isn’t supporting Contras to invade Greece. There’s a lot of commerce between Greece and Nicaragua. Melina Mercouri, the Greek Minister of Culture, has even invited Ernesto Cardenal over there.

DAVID: Did you have any preconceived notions of the poetry in Nicaragua before your visit?

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TOM CLARKE . FERLINGHETTI VISITS A 'FREE' NICARAGUA
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE . 1984

In January 1984, two San Francisco artists—poet-publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti and photographer Chris Felver—spent a week visiting NIcaragua as guests of the Nicaraguan poet and minister of culture, Father Ernesto Cardenal. “Seven Days in Nicaragua Libre” collates Ferlinghetti’s day-by-day journal of their stay, with Felver’s on-the-spot commentary photos.

Ferlinghetti, a self-styled “civil libertarian tourist of revolution,” has also made politically conceived junkets to Mexico, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Haiti, and Cuba. Here he sympathizes with the goats of the Nicaraguan revolution, though he admits to feeling wary of “Soviet-style authoritarianism” that other revolutions have produced.

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