In different parts of the world, human rights violations emerge on a daily basis, leading to forced displacements, refugees, genocides, deforestation of natural reserves, and a variety of social problems.
Throughout history, the people affected by human rights violations have resisted these abuses in different ways, but most of them have responded reciprocally to the actions of their oppressors with violence and weapons. In the last century, Central America has been a region characterized by dictators perpetrating the human rights violations of civilian populations, and consequently unleashing armed conflicts, civil wars, assassinations, forced displacement of indigenous populations, and more. In the Central American region, the violent Northern Triangle (Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala), has suffered most from human rights violations. But another country in the region whose reality is not so different is Nicaragua.
While it is true that Central Americans have responded violently – mainly through violence and weapons – to the violations of their human rights by the governments of the day, Central Americans have also done so in nonviolent ways. To illustrate the non-violent initiatives that have occurred in the region, in 1987, then Costa Rican president Oscar Arias received the Nobel Peace Prize for his participation in the peace process of the armed conflicts in the Central American region. In 1992, Guatemalan activist Rigoberta Menchù won the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in defense of and respect for the rights of the Guatemalan indigenous population. In 2015, Honduran activist Berta Cáceres won the Goldman environmental prize for her work in defense of the environment; unfortunately, a year later she was murdered, and her death has yet to be resolved by Honduran authorities. In 2017, the Nicaraguan Francisca Ramirez, popularly known as “Doña Chica,” was named among the 5 finalists for the “Frontline Defenders” prize among 142 candidates from 59 countries. She has promoted the defense of the rights of the peasantry, indigenous population, and respect for the environment with actions of peace and unity for the Nicaraguan people.
Resistance to the violation of human rights through poetry
Central Americans have not only defended their rights through marches and peaceful protests in the streets, but also through various forms of art – particularly literature and poetry in recent years.
Such has been the case in Nicaragua, a country, which beyond being known worldwide as the land of lakes and volcanoes, is also recognized as a land of great poets and writers of global stature. Nicaragua is the land of Rubén Darío, the prince of Castilian letters; Gioconda Belli, the naked voice at the cutting edge of poetry; Ernesto Cardenal, the theologist of liberation made poetry; and Sergio Ramirez, who is capable of turning everyday life into a true work of written art. These last three individuals, with their personal styles, have immortalized the social reality of Nicaragua in their works.
Claribel Alegría’s contribution
Claribel Alegría has played an exemplary role in the resistance to human rights violations in the Central American region through her poetry. Alegría is one of the world’s greatest living poets. She is Nicaraguan-Salvadoran (Nicaraguan father and Salvadoran mother), born in Nicaragua but raised in El Salvador. Her parents were persecuted by the regime of Anastasio Somoza Debayle in Nicaragua and in El Salvador she witnessed the massacre of thousands of peasants and indigenous people.
Claribel Alegría, along with Otto René Castillo and Miguel Ángel Asturias from Guatemala, Guillermo Calderón Puig from Honduras, Rigoberto López Pérez from Nicaragua, Manuel Mejilla Vallejo from Colombia and Darío Cossier from Argentina, are members of the so-called Committed Generation of their respective countries. The Committed Generation is an intellectual movement that began in the 1950s and symbolizes a strong commitment to fighting against violence and injustice in the Central American region.
In May 2017, Claribel Alegría won the Reina Sofía award for Ibero-American poetry awarded by the University of Salamanca – prizes that in previous years have been awarded to Uruguayan Mario Benedetti and Nicaraguan Ernesto Cardenal. The Reina Sofía award is the largest recognition in Iberoamerica of a poet for his or her work and contribution to Spanish poetry.
Writing poetry is never easy. It is a true art to express certain situations in words and touch the hearts of readers. But it is much more difficult to immortalize on paper all the deaths, abuses, and violations that so many innocent populations have been forced to endure.
Through her art, Claribel Alegría, has demonstrated resistance to the violation of human rights of the Central American population, and more importantly, has demanded justice and peace without violence. As we live in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile and violent, it is imperative to acknowledge and thank the work of men and women such as Claribel Alegría, who like many of us, wish for a world as fantastic and full of love as is her poetry.