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Thursday, August 11, 2022

Sergio Ramirez: “My life is marked by constant change and the wonder of the next step”

That day, Somoza’s army charged against a student demonstration that was parading through the Nicaraguan city of León. It was the afternoon of July 23, 1959. Soldiers opened fire and, amid the smoke of tear gas, Sergio Ramirez managed to slip through the service door of a small restaurant. He went to the second floor and when the noise subsided, he looked towards the balcony. Then he never left the retina of what he saw. Four people were killed and more than 60 were injured in Daman. That genocide is more than a step in the memory of the author, who turns 80 this Friday, August 5. It is an image of horror captured by the eyes of teenagers that still returns from time to time.

It is a conversation that dives into memories and the past, but also borders the present. The winner of the Cervantes Prize reviews his life and reflects on two of his exiles: the one he faced for confronting Somoza as a Sandinista leader and the one he suffers today, for more than a year, Daniel Ortega. And to oppose Rosario Murillo. Ramirez joins EL PAS via videoconferencing. He has been writing for six decades, a time, he says, marked by constant change, uncertainty and surprise. Perhaps the only thing he had planned in his career after leaving his hometown of Masatepe was to study law. Until he decided to take another route.

ask. He wrote that he sees himself as “a lawyer in the abstract”. What did you want to be at the age of 20?

answer. I really got used to the idea of ​​my father, who told me as a kid what I should do: I had to be a lawyer. I come from a very large family and my father had a family of poor musicians. He did not want to learn to play any instrument and devoted himself to commerce. It was a matter of pride for him that I was the first professional to come out of that family. One day I had an opportunity to tell him that a friend had gone to Chile to study journalism, because that subject was not taught in Nicaragua. Of course journalism is good, but it is not a liberal profession… I believe one throws himself into the waters of the river of life. At that age I found law closest to the humanities. It had never happened to anyone at that time that his job or his profession, his way of life was going to be that of a writer. It was not a profession. Less in a country like Nicaragua.

P. What was writing for you then?

R. For me it was an important hobby. Telling stories was a necessity, but it was not an option in my future being just a writer. Before graduation, I went to work with the rector, who was very decisive in my life. It was his secretary, the university’s head of public relations, under the title of his personal assistant. I was traveling with him to Managua and at a certain point, as is the case with teachers, he told me ‘I have nothing more to teach you, you have to leave Nicaragua’. And he arranged for me to live in Costa Rica to work on the Council of Central American Universities. who changed my life.

P. How did you tell your father?

R. He had a grocery store which lived in a very big room in the corner of the house. And he told me ‘I’m going to split the grocery store, I’m going to shrink it so you can have your law office in the other half.’ I continued to see myself as a lawyer practicing in a city of 4,000 or 5,000 residents. So, in a way, the fact that I went to Costa Rica was a step forward for that. It was a promotion in life.

P. And do you remember the moment you told him that he wanted to dedicate himself to writing?

R. I published my first book of short stories, at the age of 20, in ’63, at the age of 20. I never had any negative reaction from him. When I gave him the book, he took it in his hands and said, ‘Look, now you have to write a novel’. Of course, he was always looking ahead. It was a book of stories and the novel was more important among the sections in the minds of the people. But at that time my only aim was to become a storyteller. I became a novelist much later, already living in Costa Rica at the age of 67.

P. Thief time to shine, Who wrote a novel about change in Costa Rica.

R. For me it was a change of life for someone moving from a small town to a metropolis, which was León in the context of Nicaragua. In literature, this happens a lot in travel… from small town to metropolis. I started writing that novel and along the way I came across readings that I hadn’t. I ran into Rulfo and finally One Hundred Years of Solitude.

P. And how important is the idea of ​​change to you?

R. Looking back, I have been in constant change. From Masatepe to Leon. Then transfer to Costa Rica. we married [con Gertrudis Guerrero Mayorga] On 26th July and the same day in year 64 we took the plane and went to Costa Rica. We lived in Costa Rica for the first season of 10 years. Then we went to Berlin and came back from Berlin. I wanted to return to Nicaragua and couldn’t. We returned to Costa Rica and I from Costa Rica returned to Nicaragua in 1978 because of the thrill of the fight against Somoza. And well, after Nicaragua, now, for Madrid. My life has been marked by constant change. And for the surprise of the next step. With the uncertainty that the move I was going to take was not on the horizon, the only thing that was on the horizon was that I was going to study law in Lyon.

P. two exiles. What are the differences?

R. My exile in Costa Rica actually begins when, in 1977, the Somoza Prosecutor’s Office ordered me imprisonment. It puts me in the same situation I find myself in now. The difference is that then that prison order is issued against the entire group of 12 I attended, and we decide to return to Nicaragua to face Somoza’s prison order. Somoza didn’t want to let us in and in the end he was forced to let us in, but he never stopped us. Political circumstances did not allow this. I went to Nicaragua on July 5th, and until August 22nd, until the National Palace was captured, we were accorded a massive welcome. So I hid in Managua for several months and then I returned to Costa Rica. The jail order is the same today. Today I count that deportation from a prison order as I count it from a prison order now, with the difference that nothing has driven me to return to Nicaragua to stand trial, knowing that If Somoza left me on the street, Ortega isn’t going to leave me on the street.

P, What did you think of this week, when the Ortega regime besieged a rural church?

R. Aggression against the Church is rooted in the idea that the regime has its own power and must continue to consolidate that power at any cost, leaving behind any kind of political convenience. On the other hand, the persecution or outrage against the church began before 2018, when the Episcopal Conference sent a letter to Ortega, listing a kind of demands that put forward the restoration of democracy, free elections and respect for human rights. . Power. Ortega receives that letter during a meeting with the Episcopal Conference at the Apostolic Nuncio in Managua, and it causes great fury between him and his wife. And then, when the rebellion erupts in April 2018, he has to turn to the church to be able to establish a national dialogue, until Ortega starts blaming it for everything. To Monsignor Bez, to Monsignor Alvarez, the two great nemesis.

Ramirez, in a file image at the Guadalajara International Book Fair in 2021.Hector Guerrero

P. Can you imagine a way out of Nicaragua’s crisis?

R. No, I don’t see that output. I see someone who is digging in, with a very erroneous idea of ​​power, with a hallucinatory idea of ​​power. It’s digging down, making it bigger. When I was a kid I remember comic strips of a character who would paint the floor with a brush until he could just stay in a corner and get out. That’s my feeling. From persecution against the Church to the declaration of all these repressive measures of intolerance not grateful For the ambassador to the United States, that hasn’t even been confirmed… it’s a kind of absolute arrogance, a power that defies all elements of real politics. The Pope is never going to say anything no matter how much he puts a priest in jail. They have three priests in prison, accused of common crimes, sexual assault, who all know are liars. or the United States: its measures will be limited. aggression with Spain. Well, now he sent a new ambassador and Mrs Murillo welcomed him with cheers and drums. They think that everything is fixable, that everything can be fixed or that they can do whatever they want in this hallucinatory scheme of complete consolidation of power.

P. Do you have recurring memory?

R. On the afternoon of 23 July 1959, when Somoza’s forces opened fire on a student demonstration I was participating in. Four people were killed and more than 60 were injured in a street in Lyon. And yes, I am a survivor of that carnage. I have very accurate vision. The platoon that closed the street started firing tear gas shells. I can see red tear gas canisters bursting and smoke billowing into the street. I passed through the service gate of a small restaurant. I went to the second floor, when the shooting stopped, went to the balcony and saw the injured and the dead lying in the street. It is a persistent and very solid memory. It’s like a piece of film that was left there.

P. You come from a family of musicians and you have written about food culture. do you have music or baking cupcakes, in words Proustian?

R. my favorite music is triple concert by Beethoven. hey trout, For example, Schubert. I play music when I write, even chamber music. Symphony orchestra distracts me a lot. that in classical music. But I never forget that in Masatepe on those lonely, lonely, silent afternoons, there was a neighbor who had a jukebox and played two gardens, The Bolero that has been stuck in my ear since childhood. when i listen two gardens, I remember that lonely afternoon and he was playing the jukebox.

R. Do you have a recipe or dish that makes something special for you?

R. The most succulent dish in Nicaraguan cuisine, which I haven’t tried in a long time, is carne en vaho, a steamed meat that definitely has African roots. It is a wrap of banana leaves, where salted and sun-dried cecina is placed along with green bananas, all and the peel and pieces of yucca. All that is wrapped in an earthen pot and filled with steam. When that cover is opened, the perfume is exceptional.

P. Which reading do you like to return to?

R. i always come back The Quixote. When I had to leave Nicaragua, I gave a lecture for the version of Quijote That on the occasion of the Cervantes Prize the University of Alcalá gave me, very big, very beautiful. I was thinking of putting this book on lecture so that I can open it anywhere and stand up and read a paragraph. i am very familiar The Quixote, So that I can enter that huge house with so many doors and windows through any door or window. Although I can’t quote the whole paragraph The Quixote, Yes, I can quote full poems by Ruben Dario. Because I learned them more as a kid.

P. He turns 80. What does it reflect?

R. What in Quevedo in your sonnet I saw the walls of my motherland, Which is a very beautiful poem about “the most crooked and least strong employees”. I try not to depend on the employees. I have a knee problem, the orthopedist told me that I have to use a cane to walk. But I lose my cane, I forget it, I leave it in restaurants and on trains.

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