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Conversing with Nicaraguan Author Gioconda Belli

“I have an awareness of the extremely important role of women in history, in the world, and that we still do not occupy the place that belongs to us"

The Nicaraguan writer Gioconda Belli during an interview with EFE, in Panama City.// Photo: EFE

Agencia EFE

26 de mayo 2024


Nicaraguan writer Gioconda Belli (Managua, 1948) says she’s paid the price of “scandal” for writing about feminine sexuality and women’s “things,” since her earliest days as a poet in the seventies. She recognizes, however, that writing odes to the erotic has now become more normal.

“To me, who began to write poetry a bit by motu propio [on her own volition], being a woman and writing about women’s things meant having people condemn my erotic poetry as scandalous,” the poet stated. Gioconda Belli made these remarks during an interview with the EFE news agency, while attending the Centroamerica Cuenta festival in Panama.

Belli, who defines herself as a feminist and part of the movement, believes there’s been an “advance” in women’s rights, and a greater acceptance of literature that deals with feminine sexuality. Still, she pointed out, there’s “a long way left to go” and equity has yet to be achieved.

“I have a clear awareness of the extremely important role of women in history, in the world, and that we still don’t occupy the place that corresponds to us. We’re (still) suffering from inequalities, minimization, and invisibility,” she affirmed.

Her road as a poet began in Nicaragua’s La Prensa newspaper. In 1972, she published Sobre la grama [“On the grass”], her first book of poems, with an erotic and feminist tone that was revolutionary for that era, as the author herself noted.

Gioconda Belli took her inspiration from English writers such as Virginia Wolf, and from US writer and philosopher Angel Davis. Her subsequent literary universe includes several works that explicitly touch on feminist ideas, for example, La mujer habitada (1988), which deals with “women’s participation in history;” and is available in English as “The inhabited woman;”and El pais de las mujeres (2010), which she describes as a utopia with “a lot of humor” and “a vision of what a world governed by women could be.”

“Nicaragua is the love of my life and my muse”

The other great protagonist of Belli’s literary work is Nicaragua. Everything from the history of this Central American country to its landscapes are reflected in her twenty-one books of prose and poetry.

“Nicaragua is the love of my life,” the author admitted, then proceeded to recite a line from one of her poems: “Nicaragua, you are my man, with a woman’s name.”

Assuming a poetic rhythm, she continued: “My love for Nicaragua, love of the skin, isn’t just a patriotic love. It’s the love I have for the clouds, for what is, for the lips, for the beauty of the country, for the people, because we have a poet for a hero. (Ruben Dario)”

Gioiconda Belli was stripped of her nationality in 2023 for “treason to the homeland,” together with over 300 other people, including another famous Nicaraguan author, Sergio Ramirez, whom she calls her “colleague in suffering.” Nonetheless, far from feeling herself without a country, she declares that she will continue writing about Nicaragua. “It’s my muse, as well.”

Gioconda, currently living in Spain, has been forced into exile for the second time in her life. The first was in the 70s during the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza . Today, she reflects on her past as a participant in the Sandinista Revolution and a member of the Sandinista National Liberation Front, which she belonged to until 1993. She looks back on this in the light of the sociopolitical crisis that has engulfed Nicaragua after the massive protests of 2018.

“To me, it isn’t the Sandinista movement that’s in power, because Sandinista ideology was something different. What Daniel Ortega (Nicaragua’s ruler) is doing is called – or he wants it to be called – Sandinista, but he’s simply trying to usurp that history of struggle. His regime is a dictatorship as bad as the one back then (Somoza),” she judged.

“The Sandinista era has passed. It was a historic moment. I don’t believe that it should be reedited, I think that another type of resistance must be created, another type of democratic opposition.”

This article was published in Spanish in Confidencial and translated by Havana Times. To get the most relevant news from our English coverage delivered straight to your inbox, subscribe to The Dispatch.


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Agencia EFE

Agencia EFE

Agencia de noticias internacional con sede en Madrid, España. Fundada en Burgos durante la guerra civil española en enero de 1939.