In the pantheon of great Nicaraguans no two men are higher than Sandino and Darío. Sandino was the independence fighter of the early 1900’s that expelled the occupying American Marines. Rubén Darío was a poet who died on February 6, 1916. He is known as the father of Spanish Modernism around the world, and lived most of his life in León.
Sandino’s veneration by the ruling Sandinista Party of Nicaragua is self-explanatory, but the Sandinistas also have a great hand in the cult of Darío. In addition to poet, Darío was a critic, world traveler, and ambassador (for a time he was Nicaragua’s ambassador to Spain). His writings, beliefs, and life works align well with the anti-imperialist rhetoric of the Sandinistas. The last month here in León has been full-blow Daríomania, and it came to a culmination Friday night and yesterday.
This year in Nicaragua is a Presidential election year, and the political machine is shifting into full gear. Right now they are using Darío to put a nationalistic face on the Sandinistas. The City of León built a new park at the entrance to the city in honor of Rubén Darío. On Friday night the new park was inaugurated with great pomp and circumstance. There was a dance troupe from Managua, the mayor made a speech, and even President Ortega showed up before himself heading over to the Central Park to make a speech!
At first the co-opting of Darianismo by the ruling party rubbed me the wrong way, but by Friday night I was over it. Without the political support we would not have any events or public works to appreciate, so I learned to live with it.
The festivities on Saturday started with an extra-ordinary session of the National Assembly in the Cathedral, from where they marched down the street to Rubén Darío’s house. I have never seen so many police officers or military personnel in León. All the streets were closed, which was very nice because all of the noise pollution was gone for an entire morning.
After all of the dignitaries cleared out of León in the afternoon there was one more public event at sundown in front of the Cathedral in the Central Park. A large group of artists and performers choreographed and composed a tribute to Rubén Darío. The performance included a live orchestra, song, a choir, dancers, poetry recital, and a visual projection on to the facade of the church. Everything was based on his poetry, and the entire event was excellent.
Darío’s poetry is very difficult for my amateur Spanish eyes, and I may never penetrate it. I have never been very appreciative of poetry in the first place. However, I am very glad that León and Nicaragua have had the chance to pay tribute to their favorite son and appreciate his work.
Since my trip to the Atlantic Coast and my camera was stolen I have not written any blog posts. Part of that is due to my lack of a visual narrative tool, and part of that is due to a very normal month here in Nicaragua. With my close-of-service on the horizon I have been focused on work and planning, which has not lent itself to blog posts. I did have a great activity last week, and once my counterpart sends me his pictures I will be sure to write about it. My mom has also sent me a replacement camera which should be up and running any day now. I am extremely grateful for her generosity. This is actually the second time in my adult life I have had a camera stolen and she has gotten me a new one. She has always loved photography. I suppose that for a woman who has dedicated her life to helping people make their eyes work better, the allure of a mechanical eye that always works exactly as she wants it to is extremely seductive. Thanks mom! The photos in this blog post were taken by Eddy Lopéz, a local journalist and photographer.
If you want to feel the spirit of Darianismo while you are in León the best place to visit is the Rubén Darío House-Museum. Darío lived in this house for a time, and it is now open to the public and free to enter. You may make a voluntary donation though. All signage is in Spanish, and paid tour guides are available for hire. The museum is open seven days a week, but closed from 12:00 – 2:00. On Sundays it closes after 12:00.
Address: Del Parque de las Poetas, dos cuadras al oeste (the entrance is around the corner from that street corner)
Looking for Darío’s Birth House?
You’ll have to head to what is now known as Cuidad Darío in Matagalpa for that. There’s actually one direct bus a day from León. It leaves mid to late morning, I believe.
His Final Resting Place?
Rubén’s tomb is, my friends, located in León. It is arguably the most noteworthy site inside the Cathedral of León and easily seen and visited by any visitor to the Cathedral, a World Heritage Site.
Want to Read Some Darío?
If Googling his poetry doesn’t suit your needs, there is one bookstore in León that carries his works. They even have a collection of his poetry that has every poem printed in both English and Spanish. The bookstore is called Búho Books.
Address: De la Casa-Museo Rubén Darío, una cuadra y media al oeste
Want to check out the new park?
The new park is located at the entrance to the city of León. If you want to take public transportation you will need to hop on a truck heading towards La Colonia Universidad for C$ 4. The best place to pick up that truck is at San Sebastian. If you prefer a taxi, just tell the taxi driver that you want to go to “el parque nuevo, cerca de la vuelta.” That trip should run you between C$ 25 and C$ 30 each way.