Ernesto Cardenal Martínez (1925-2020) who died in March this year, was a Nicaraguan Catholic priest and poet. He was a liberation theologian and served as minister of culture from 1979 to 1987 under the Sandinistas.


Ernesto Cardenal

You saw more coyotes near San Ubaldo in September.

And more alligators, a little after the triumph,

   in the rivers, there near San Ubaldo.

      More rabbits and raccoons on the road ...

The bird population has tripled, they say,

     especially the piches.

The noisy piches go swim wherever they see the water shining.

The Somocistas destroyed the lakes, rivers and mountains too.

      They diverted the course of the rivers for their farms.

The Ochomogo had dried up last summer.

The Sinecapa dried up because the landowners stripped the land.

The Rio Grande of Matagalpa dried up during the war,

       there near the Sebaco Plains.

They built two dams on the Ochomogo,

      And the capitalist chemical wastes

spilled into the Ochomogo and the fish reeled around like drunks.

      The Boaco River carried sewage.

The Moyua Lagoon dried up. A Somocista colonel

robbed the peasants’ land and built a dam.

The Moyua Lagoon that for centuries had been beautiful in that spot.

      (But the little fish will soon return.)

They stripped the land and built dams.

             Few garrobos in the sun, few armadillos.

Somoza sold the Caribbean green tortoise.

They exported paslama and iguana eggs by the truckload.

      The caguama tortoise finished.

The Gran Lago swordfish finished off by Jose Somoza.

Facing danger of extinction the jungle jaguar,

      its soft skin the colour of the jungle,

and the puma, the tapir in the mountains

          (like the peasants in the mountains).

And the poor Chiquito River! Its misfortune

that of the whole country. Somocismo reflected in its waters.

The Chiquito River of Leon, fed by brooks

of sewage, soap factory and tannery wastes,

white water from the soap factories, red from the tanneries;

plastics, chamber pots, rusty iron in the riverbed. This is what Somocismo left us.

(We have to see the river pretty and clear once again singing its way to the sea).

And into Lake Managua all of Managua’s waste waters

and chemical wastes.

    And there near Solentiname, on La Zanata Island:

a great white stinking heap of swordfish skeletons.

But the swordfish and freshwater sharks are breathing again.

Tisma is full of royal herons again

           reflected in its mirrors.

It has many little starlings, piches, guises, widgets.

    The plant life has benefited too.

The armadillos are very happy with this government.

    We will restore our forests, rivers, lagoons.

We will decontaminate Lake Managua.

Not only humans longed for liberation.

All ecology groaned for it also. The revolution

is also one of lakes, rivers, trees, animals.

Translated from the Spanish by Marc Zimmerman

*Third World Resurgence No. 343/344, 2020, p 84