Ernesto Cardenal Papers: Selected Materials on Display
The opening of the Ernesto Cardenal Papers at the Benson Latin American Collection was celebrated on November 15, 2016, with a poetry reading by the Nicaraguan luminary himself, preceded by a panel discussion among scholars of literature, religion, and political science. But although the “main event” has come and gone, the presence of Cardenal’s rich and multifaceted archive at The University of Texas at Austin opens many new avenues to scholarly inquiry on campus and beyond.
Born in Granada, Nicaragua, in January 1925, Cardenal is a renowned poet, priest, liberation theologist, and activist. His archive contains materials documenting many of the phases and roles of his life. A selection of these wonderful resources is currently on display in the main reading room of the Benson Collection.
Among the many items on view are first editions of the poetry collections Salmos and Hora 0; a handwritten and illustrated manuscript of Cardenal’s first published poem, “Ciudad deshabitada”; collaborative translations worked on with Trappist monk Thomas Merton; letters from Octavio Paz, Merton, and Pablo Antonio Cuadra, among others; and the handwritten “Declaration of Three,” a treatise on poetry composed and signed by Cardenal, Allen Ginsberg, and Eugenio Yevtuchenko at the Managua Poetry Festival in 1982.
Numerous photographs in this display show Cardenal in some of the myriad roles of his life—spiritual leader Solentiname, the semi-monastic artists’ and peasants’ community in Lake Nicaragua; Sandinista leader; and literary figure, photographed alongside other lauded authors, such as Julio Cortázar and Nicolás Guillén.
In the early years of the Sandinista government—from 1979 through most of 1987—Cardenal served as Nicaragua's Minister of Culture, overseeing sucha initiatives as the promotion of corn consumption due to a wheat embargo, and the establishment of free poetry workshops for Nicaraguans of all ages and from all walks of life. Cardenal discusses these initiatives and other topics with Benson librarian José Montelongo in an interview recorded in March–April 2016 at the poet’s home in Managua. View excerpts of that interview at this link (in Spanish with English subtitles).
Archives from Cardenal’s time as Minister of Culture will be part of this collection in digital form. The original MInistry of Culture archives have been deposited at IHNCA (El Instituto de História de Nicaragua y Centroamérica).
Cardenal’s archive was brought to UT Austin through the efforts of LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections, a collaborative partnership between the Benson and the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies. To learn more about the contents of the Ernesto Cardenal Papers, 1925–2016, visit Texas Archival Resources Online (TARO).