Claribel Alegria and Central American Literature: Critical Essays

Claribel Alegria and Central American Literature: Critical Essays

Claribel Alegria and Central American Literature: Critical Essays

Claribel Alegria and Central American Literature: Critical Essays


These essays examine the multifaceted work of the Central American author whom Latin American literary historians consider precursor of "cultural dialogism" in poetry and fiction. As poet, essayist, journalist, novelist, and writer of "quasi-testimonio," Alegréa's multiple discourses transgress the boundaries between traditional and postmodern political theories and practices. her work reveals an allegory of relation and negotiation between "intelligentsia" and subaltern peoples as well as the need for a more socially extensive literature, not exclusive of more elite "magical literatures."

The essays in the fist section frame Alegréa's discourses within sociohistorical, political, and literary contexts in order to illuminate the author's singular place in the literary and political history of Central America. The essays in the second section engage in a feminist dialogic in which the reader encounters various critical validations and valorizations of Alegréa's many female voices. The third section involves the reader in the pursuit of extratextual or extraliterary resonances in Alegréa's work.


To delve into the vast and varied opera of Claribel Alegría is to connect with one of the most disturbingly beautiful and turbulent regions of present-day Central America. Alegría, whether in her radiant, bold poetry, in her journalistic essays, or, in her testimonial fiction, incorporates the everyday struggles of her own historical journey with those of the oppressed. As she speaks for the absent ones, the downtrodden, the grieving, those who live on the border of words and life, Alegría dedicates herself to providing these other voices with a space, a means of recalling their special relationship to the landscape of the world. More significantly, she teaches us to love them.

Alegría also reflects a turbulent life as traveler, or, better said, as restless wanderer. At nine months of age she had abandoned her birthplace, Esteli in Nicaragua, for El Salvador because of the forced political exile of her father at a time when North American troops were invading Nicaragua. Alegría did not return to her native land until the Sandinistas' prophecy of victory was fulfilled. the spectre of the fierce dictatorship of Somoza, the Matanza of the peasants at Izalco, the small heartrending pueblos of Central America--these do not appear as mere anecdotes or supporting space for her poetry and prose; rather these spaces are transformed into the very shape of her text, into a manner of speaking without subterfuge, formed in the authenticity of her writing, a writing implicated in the political, social, and magical history of the region.

In numerous interviews and personal testimonies, Alegría affirms that she writes "letras de emergencia" or "urgent literature." in fact, to read, for example, Flores del volcán / Flowers from the Volcano, La mujer del rio (The woman of the river), or Luisa in Realityland is to share a poetry carved with visceral and concrete images, revealing the history of a people in vital urgency and flux . . .

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