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Ernesto Cardenal

Ernesto Cardenal was born in 1925 in Nicaragua and attended both the University of Mexico and Columbia University in New York. A former Catholic priest who studied in Kentucky with the scholar, poet, and Trappist monk Thomas Merton, Cardenal has been involved in the tumultuous political scene in Nicaragua, and Central America generally, since the 1960s. He was the Minister of Culture in Nicaragua from 1979-1988—a post for which he was publically reprimanded by the Vatican—and co-founded the Casas de las Tres Mundos, a literary and cultural organization based in Nicaragua. Cardenal recognizes that poetry and art are closely tied to politics, and has used his poetry to protest the encroachments of outsiders in Nicaragua, supporting the revolution that overthrew President Somoza in 1979. Cardenal continues to be a political figure both in Nicaragua and abroad. He has criticized the ruling government in Nicaragua, and the current incarnation of the Sandinista Party. An active reader of his own work, Cardenal spends much of his time traveling to give readings and talks, and has been described as “a kind of international ambassador” by Richard Elman in the Nation. 

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