Literature from Central America for Hispanists: Gioconda Belli

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For Hispanists and everyone who is fond of the history of the revolutions in Central America, reading Gioconda Belli’s memoirs is highly recommended. I would particularly like to tell you about one of her books that really struck me: The Country Under My Skin, a sketch of the Nicaraguan Revolution against Somoza’s dictatorship.

“I have been two women and I have lived two lives,” this is how the first line starts. Such a sharp fracture, in the author’s life, that makes the chapters of the book alternate between a story starting in 1974 and another one in 1985. The two plots slowly converge and meet at the end of the tale, in 1999. It is a frequently used narrative technique, except for one special feature: the protagonist of both stories is the same Gioconda Belli, or, maybe, two versions of herself. The whole book focuses on the friction between the life of the bourgeoisie and the life of ordinary people. Gioconda, militant among the Sandinistas, decides to live both and to challenge Somoza’s dictatorship. She is the journalist who writes the newspaper of the Nicaraguan Revolution when she is exiled to Costa Rica.

When, finally, her revolution triumphs, she comes back victorious and she becomes the head of the state television services. She renounces. Her passion leads her to follow the Nine in the Direction of the Sandinista National Liberation Front. Those who used to be young rebels and dreamers must now rebuild a devastated country from scratch, negotiating with multiple interlocutors, among which Fidel Castro’s Cuba and the powerful and sometimes overbearing United States. She cannot but stand by the Nine directors, even though, as a woman, she lives through a further rebellion against the unequal treatment of men and women within the Front. A series of breathtaking events, which are quite surprisingly true. Gioconda Belli draws a message from them: “What is important is not the fulfillment of all one’s dreams, but the stubborn determination to continue dreaming.”

An unmissable book, not only for linguists, translators and interpreters who work with the Spanish-Italian, Spanish-English and Spanish-Portuguese combinations.

Article by Silvia Cicciomessere, Spanish – Italian Interpreter and Translator in Rome