Ramírez, Reading & Responsibility

The presenter introduced Sergio Ramírez with all the formal flourish that the Spanish language provides for; a laudatory salute that seems unique to places where poets serve as public servants.  The presenter mentioned the publications Ramírez has contributed to; the number of his essays, short stories, and novels; told of his political history and his creation of Nicaraguan publications and organizations of reform. The presenter was obviously very proud of having such an influential man in the room, and finally said, “I give you, author, poet, thinker, ex-president Sergio Ramírez!”

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The man who has given talks at over forty academic institutions around the world (including Cornell University) took the podium. “Thank you for the very generous introduction,” he started.  And what he said next illustrates the difference between poets and politicians. Continue reading

Latin America Reads

Several hundred teachers sporting green canvas bags filled an auditorium at the Central American University (UCA) of Managua. The bags bore the Nicaragua Lee (Nicaragua Reads) and International Reading Association logos under the inscription, “Cantar Palabras, Dibujar Textos,” or, “Sing Words, Draw Texts.” A large banner across the top of the stage welcomed teachers to the eleventh Latin American and second National Congresses on Reading. The teachers were mostly from Nicaragua and Central America, but many South American countries, as well as Puerto Rico and USA, were also represented.

I was there accompanying the delegations from schools supported by Fundación Nicafrance. As I mentioned in a previous post, this foundation sponsors schools with other members of its social enterprise network: Morgan’s Rock Hacienda & Ecolodge, La Cumplida/Cafetalera Nicafrance, and Exportadora Atlantic, S.A. These are all intertwined with the Simplemente Madera Group.

The great highlight of the day’s proceedings was the eagerly-awaited arrival of Sergio Ramírez, who was vice-president of Nicaragua just after the revolution (86-90) and is probably the most celebrated poet and author of Central America since Ruben Dario, who still has a historic importance to Nicaraguan culture. Scores of teachers had copies of his latest book, La fugitiva, which they would ask him to sign at the end of his speech about the importance of reading to future generations of Nicaraguan society. This tall man and his deliberating voice, which rang across the auditorium, actually inspired me to wait in line and ask him to sign my shirt. This was the first time I’d ever asked someone for their autograph.

To find out why I had my shirt signed rather than a piece of paper or a Congress program (see the first link for an Excel sheet), stay tuned for the latter of my next two posts about this Congress and what I learned about the state of Nicaraguan literacy today.