Ernesto Cardenal in his office. Solentiname, Costa Rica
El Viaje a Nicaragua e Intermezzo Tropical
(Trip to Nicaragua and Intermezzo Tropical)
a proposal by Pablo León de la Barra
In 1907, after 15 years traveling (partly in exile) the Americas and Europe, modernist poet Ruben Dario, aged 40, returned to his homeland of Nicaragua. Between August 1908 and April 1909 he published eleven chronicles on his return, which together with a series of poems written during that period were published under the title El Viaje a Nicaragua e Intermezzo Tropical, where the poet confronted the realities of his country.
Inspired by Ruben Dario’s writings and travels, Pablo León de la Barra’s proposal for The 2012 Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Travel Award for Central America and the Caribbean is a project in two parts that proposes a research trip to Nicaragua and an “Intermezzo Tropical” in an attempt to re-read seminal historical moments in the region which have acquired new relevance in the current political and economical realities.
On July 12th, León de la Barra set off for Nicaragua to do research on (and with) Ernesto Cardenal and his utopian community of Solentiname that was created during the dictatorship of Somosa, in an attempt to investigate a key specific moment of the relationship between aesthetics and politics in the continent.
During its existence Solentiname attracted the attention of many practitioners, among them Chilean artist Juan Downey and James Harithas, then Director of the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York, for whom Cardenal arranged a meeting with rebel artists that led to an exhibition of their work at Everson in 1973.
After the fall of Somosa, Ernesto Cardenal was named Minister of Culture, which, together with the revolutionary moment, attracted many artists to visit Nicaragua and be part of the revolution. In 1979, Mexican artist Felipe Ehrenberg traveled to the country and during his time there developed a manual for mimeographic prints and editions, which was distributed throughout communities in the country encouraging them to create their own publications.
Episodes like Downey’s and Ehrenberg’s visit are being integrated into León de la Barra’s research, with the hope of also finding other artists who visited Nicaragua during the period and created work related to Nicaragua, Solentiname, and the Revolution.
Since he arrived in Nicuaragua on July 12, León de la Barra has visited Ernesto Cardenal, who is now 87, and Luz Marina Acosta, who is Cardenal’s right hand. He has also met with William Agudelo, a poet who was a founding member of Solentiname; Juiio Valle Castill, a poet and former minister of culture, who has written about Solentiname; Roger Perez de la Rocha, a painter who moved to Solentiname aged 18 in1967 and who was responsible on teaching the peasants of Solentiname painting techniques; Esperanza Guevara, who was born in Solentiname, who was one of the ‘primitive’ painters and whose two brothers Alejandro and Donald were formed in Solentiname and became fighters and martyrs of the revolution; and Marcos Agudelo, son of William, born after the revolution, artist and architect and who very recently has restored the chapel of Solentiname.
On the 27th July he was heading to Solentiname but his email reports say that he has already found enough material to make an incredible exhibition on Solentiname.
After this, León de la Barra will enter the second phase of his research, the Intermezzo Tropical to expand the research he’s been doing into artistic scenes of the region, and to create future partnerships with artists and initiatives in order to develop future projects. This will include traveling to El Salvador and Honduras in early August before moving on to Guatemala.
In the fall his research will take him to Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Panama, as well as New York to learn more about the Everson museum show, and other projects that have happened in response to the region.
León de la Barra’s new exhibition, Novo Museo Tropical, is now on view at TEOR/éTica (through September 16, 2012).