Serial publications, pamphlets and propaganda
Part I of this series of blog posts introduced the Robert Pring-Mill collection at the Taylor Institution Library and explored Nicaraguan poetry. This second part focuses on serial publications, pamphlets and grey literature. Part III, the last in the series, will discuss the genre known as testimonial literature.
It is in the serial publications, political pamphlets and the literacy campaign – La Cruzada Nacional de Alfabetización, with which Ernesto Cardenal was involved – that one can clearly see the role of what Pring-Mill termed “committed poetry”. In these publications, alongside political essays and journalistic accounts of human rights abuses, we find poetry and songs. Publications such as Tlaloc, Amanecer, La Chachalaca, student journals, literacy pamphlets and revolutionary martyrs’ obituaries, as well as other genres, show the function of poetry as part of a greater expression of national identity and development.
A good introduction to Nicaragua of the late 1970s and early 1980s is the magazine Amanecer: Reflexion Cristiana en la Nueva Nicaragua. It shows the strong links, in Nicaragua, between Christianity and the Sandinista movement. As its official artist and cartoonist it had Maximino Cerezo Barredo, the liberation theologian who produced liberation art throughout Latin America. The magazine provides a good insight into what was going on in Nicaragua politically and socially, covering events from the visit of Pope John Paul II (1983), to cinema festivals and peasant workshops. The Pope’s visit resulted in a variety of articles by prominent figures in the liberation theology movement expressing frustration and disappointment over the pontiff’s position with regard to the Sandinista revolution.
Amanecer includes articles and poems from the best-known intellectuals and poets of Nicaragua, authors widely represented in the Taylorian’s collections. We find poetry by Rubén Darío, Rosario Murillo, Ernesto Cardenal (Minister of Culture 1979-87), José María Valverde and other liberation theologians such as Fray Betto and Leonardo Boff, as well as interviews with the historian Hans-Jurgen Prien. There is political analysis, including the prediction of the escalation of the Contra War (Amanecer, January 1982, p.4), alongside songs and poems. This juxtapositioning shows the deep roots that the oral tradition has in Nicaragua, and the role it plays in its national identity and by extension in its political and social development.
The place of poetry in the reconstruction of the country after the revolution of 1979 is also evident in these serial publications. La Chachalaca (1985) was a publication of the Centros Populares de Cultura (Ministry of Culture) with the aim of developing “educational activities that contribute to increasing the level of culture of the citizens” (my own translation). This was the Sandinista project of cultural democratisation.
Aurora, a trimestral publication on a variety of topics, comprises political essays, historical analysis, book reviews and poetry including, in 1964, Pablo Neruda’s poem Cita de Invierno. The number of articles on the Soviet Union in both Aurora and another publication, América Latina No. 4 (1976), reflects the close ties between the two regions. The latter, a Russian-Latin American academic publication, was probably collected by Pring-Mill for its article on Pablo Neruda as it includes 20 of the poet’s previously unpublished letters.
Various pamphlet series celebrating the lives of combatants who died during the armed struggle were published during the ‘70s and ‘80s. Each pamphlet is dedicated to the biography of an individual revolutionary martyr. Many of the combatants wrote poetry and this is included in each of their biographies. Some biographies also include a prayer or a passage from the Bible and frequently there is a direct comparison between the deceased and Jesus Christ or the Christian martyrs. It is here, as well as in Amanecer, that the influence of liberation theology in Nicaragua can really be seen.
A publication which aims to be pedagogic as well as religious is Historia de la Iglesia de los Pobres en Nicaragua, by the Comisión de Estudios de Historia de la Iglesia en Latinoamérica (1983). The booklet is in a simple language, within a cartoon-like format. It narrates the history of the Catholic Church in Nicaragua beginning with the colonial period and ending with 1979. It explains the differing models of the Church, how the Church dealt with the different historical periods in Nicaragua, and how the Church integrated itself into the revolution.
Less religious in focus but told in similar comic-book fashion is a translated booklet of cartoons by Roger Sánchez, a political cartoonist and social critic then aged 24, who also drew for the Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional (FSLN — Sandinista National Liberation Front) and its newspaper, Barricada. Sánchez’s Cartoons from Nicaragua: The Revolutionary Humour of Roger (1984) was published by the Committee of US Citizens Living in Nicaragua which, though it claimed not to align itself with the FSLN, did want to help change US policy in Nicaragua.
Part of the Sandinista project was the creation of a space with possibilities of alliance between the workers and the middle and upper classes. The aim was to increase educational attainment as well as create a shared sense of national-popular identity. Serie Educación Popular: Programa de reactivación económica en beneficio del pueblo (small booklet version, 1980) is written in clear and simple language explaining what the economic recovery programme consists of, its strategies, aims and related problems.
Other pragmatic pamphlets include, Revolución y El Campo: Boletín Informativo by the Centros Populares de Cultura, and Qué es el plan 80?: Plan de emergencia y reactivación económica en beneficio del pueblo: Ministerio de Planificación Nacional, among others. They were an attempt to inform citizens in an open and straightforward language about the economic plans and strategies of the new revolutionary government. Other pamphlets like these were part of the literacy campaign launched by the Sandinista government in 1980, in what was known as El año de la alfabetización (The Year of Literacy).
Natalia Bermúdez Qvortrup
University College of Oslo and Akershus
Intern, Social Science Library, Bodleian Libraries
Arellano, Jorge Eduardo (1997) Literatura Nicaraguense Managua: Ediciones Distribuidora Cultural
Beverley, John and Marc Zimmerman (1990) Literature and Politics in the Central American Revolutions. Austin: University of Texas.
Forster, Merlin H. and K.David Jackson (1990) Vanguardism in Latin American Literature: An annotated Bibliographical Guide. New York: Greenwood Press.
Maximino Cerezo Barredo: http://www.minocerezo.it/
For Beginners Books: http://www.forbeginnersbooks.com/aboutus.html