“In Nicaragua there are many young people writing secretly and one wonders if one day they will come to light, if there will be a Ruben Darío hidden there,” says the young Nicaraguan poet William Gonzalez Guevara, winner of the Hiperión Poetry Prize 2023 for his work “Second-class immigrants”.
In an interview with EFE in Madrid, he said it really hurts him “that voices are muted” due to the political situation in his country, about whose future he feels “very pessimistic”, since he does not see unity in the opposition nor a representative head against the Government of Daniel Ortega.
Gonzalez (Managua, 2000) received the award this Wednesday from Jesus Munarriz, editor of Hiperion, at the Casa de America in the Spanish capital, an event in which he was accompanied by the Nicaraguan author Sergio Ramírez, among others.
“Central America has had to wait 40 years to win the Hiperion and I sometimes wonder hasn’t there been a deserving poet until now? For example, when Sergio Ramirez was given the Cervantes, for the first time to a Central American, he said something like ‘I played the roulette wheel, and my number came up.’ I feel like something similar has happened to me,” Gonzalez admits.
He said he felt “a lot of satisfaction” after years of work. “I had not dared to publish anything, and a literary critic showed me how the scene worked here, dominated by awards. I came from a country where the important thing is not that, but the work itself, which is why I was very reluctant. But I started sending everything I had written, twelve years of work, and it started happening.”
A “merely literary” commitment
The young poet assures that he does not want to get involved in politics “at all”, since his commitment to Nicaragua is and has always been “merely literary”, but he recognizes that he could be one of the future persons stripped of his nationality, just like other compatriots who oppose Ortega, such as the writers Gioconda Belli and Sergio Ramirez.
“I will never stop being Nicaraguan, no matter if they take away my passport. Nicaragua is carried inside, not in a document,” says the 23-year-old poet, who has been living in Spain since he was eleven.
Gonzalez remembers that the publication of his second collection of poems, “It hurts to breathe,” where he condemned the violence exercised by the Ortega Government during the 2018 protests, was, in a way, “condemning himself,” but it was something he had to do.
“I knew that on a political level things were bad, but once several of my best childhood friends were murdered, I felt that I couldn’t be silent,” confesses the also journalism student at the Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid.
Added to this is his concern about the “enormous censorship” that currently exists, whether in literature, journalism or in any other area where someone raises their voice against the Government, although he recognizes the enormous work of critical voices from abroad.
Second class immigrants
In “second-class immigrants,” the work that won the Hiperion Poetry Prize, Gonzalez delves into the lives of migrant women who are dedicated to cleaning homes, a task carried out by his mother in Spain.
“I see a lot of exploitation and need in the reasons that lead them to these jobs. We should not fall into the mistake of thinking that this happens only because they lack documents, since many of them do have them, but even so their labor rights are not respected,” he denounces.
He notes this is not an issue of “legality”, but rather of “humanity”, since even if migrants are in an irregular situation, they at least deserve to receive the minimum wage.
“I know the situation firsthand, and I know that a woman cannot survive on 350 euros a month, and some families do not even pay their Social Security contribution,” he remarks.
Gonzalez rose to fame with his collection of poems “The Nobodies”, a collection of writings that he wrote between the ages of eleven and seventeen, dedicated mainly to that most marginalized part of society that many forget.
This first book made him the first Latin American to win the prestigious “Antonio Carvajal” Young Poetry Prize in more than twenty years and, since then, his career has continued to rise.