Woman of the Week: Claribel Alegria

“Rain is falling, falling and the memories keep flooding by. They show me a senseless world, a voracious world, but I keep loving it”

 Clara Isabel Alegría Vides is a woman of many titles. She is a poet, essayist, novelist, journalist, and major contemporary voice in Central American literature. Under the pen name Claribel Alegria, Vides, has published over thirty works and won numerous awards. The life of this extraordinary woman began on May 12, 1924, in Estelí, Nicaragua. Although born in Nicaragua, Alegria would spend her childhood in Santa Ana of western El Salvador, due to her father being exiled following his protesting of human rights violations committed during the US Occupation of Nicaragua.

              From the tender age of six years old Alegria began to show the signs of a great wordsmith. Although she had yet to learn how to read or write Alegria started to construct poems which she would have her mother, whom most of the poems were dedicated to, write down. When she was 17 years old Alegria’s first poem would be published by a Central American cultural supplement. Following this publication José Vasconcelos, a Mexican educator, arranged for Alegria to attend school in Hammond, Louisiana, which prompted her 1943, move to the United States. By 1948, Alegria graduated with a BA in Philosophy and Letters from George Washington University.

              Despite her notoriety as a poet Claribel Alegria was also an active advocate for non-violent protest against oppressive Central American governments. She is commonly associated with the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), the people’s movement that was responsible for overthrowing the Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle. Drawing inspiration from her father Alegria moved back to Nicaragua in 1985, to assist the country with reconstruction. Even though she considers herself to be Salvadorian, Alegria returned to her birthplace to put the words of change she had written long ago into practical action.

The writings that Alegria has published is heavily characterized by a writing style called La Generacion Comprometida (The Committed Generation). These poems are typically critical of societies and governments. Although there is mistrust present in the language, the above quote shows that despite the trials and tribulations present in life, we are still ensnared by our affections for it. Every morning that we wake up is an opportunity to insight change, to bring relief, and to usher in an age of discourse and peace.

Claribel Alegria is a woman of many titles. We are aware that the first featured Woman of the Week by Rosie can hardly compare to her 2006, Neustadt International Prize for Literature, but we hope that this humble award has introduced our members to a truly inspirational woman. 

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Rachel Anderson