Nicaragua may be known for its natural beauty, but the largest country in Central America is also home to some of the greatest authors in Latin America.
Historically devastated by dictatorships and civil unrest, the women on this list fought along with their community with their words and sometimes even their actions. From Nicaraguan icons to contemporary writers, these escritoras share a passion for their country that’s evident in their works.
1. Gioconda Belli
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Gioconda Belli is one of Nicaragua’s most prolific political and intellectual voices, defender of women’s rights and one of the most important poets of Latin America. The 69-year-old published her first poetry book in 1972 titled “On the Grass,” which openly focused on sexuality and the female form. That year, she won the Premio de Poesía Mariano Fiallos Gil award from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Nicaragua. Her 1988 book “La Mujer Habitada” is a semi-autobiographical novel that received attention for raising gender issues in a way that hadn’t been done before in Nicaragua. In 2000, she published her autobiography “El Pais Bajo mi Piel,” and the English translation was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in 2003.
2. Daisy Zamora
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The multifaceted Daisy Zamora is a political activist and painter as well as one of Latin America’s and Nicaragua’s most distinguished poets. Her work has been recognized for covering a wide range of topics, including politics, human rights, feminism, culture, art and history. She was involved in the fight against the Somoza dictatorship in the 1970s and joined the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) in 1973. She was exiled to Honduras, Panama and Costa Rica. She has written five books, including “Riverbed of Memory,” published in 1992, and more recently “Tierra de Nadie, Tierra de Todos” (“No-Man’s Land, Everybody’s Land”), published in 2007. She’s edited several anthologies, including the first anthology of Nicaraguan women poets, “La Mujer Nicaragüense en la Poesía,” published in 1992. In 2006, she was honored Writer of the Year by the National Association of Artists in Nicaragua. She splits her time between Managua, Nicaragua and San Francisco, Calif. with her husband, writer George Evans, and their three kids.
3. Karly Gaitán Morales
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Writer, journalist and film historian Karly Gaitán Morales, 36, lives in Managua and has published two books. “Cita con Sergio Ramírez. Entrevistas. Artículos. Crónicas,” which centered on Nicaraguan writer Sergio Ramírez, released in 2012, and she also later published “A la conquista de un sueño. Historia del cine en Nicaragua,” which encompasses the history of films in Nicaragua from the late 1800s to present day.
4. María Teresa Sánchez
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Self-taught writer María Teresa Sánchez is venerated for her efforts to revive Nicaraguan literature in addition to her own literary contributions as a pioneer female poet. In 1940, she founded the literary association Círculo de Letras and opened the publishing house Nuevos Horizontes, which played an integral part in collecting Nicaragua’s significant literary works. She published six books in her lifetime, while “Huésped del Olvido” was published posthumously by the Nicaraguan Center for Writers in 2001. The themes often found in her works include love, sorrow, sadness and loneliness.
5. Mariana Ortega
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Feminist philosopher Mariana Ortega is an associate professor at Penn State University focusing on philosophy and women’s, gender and sexuality studies. Her research centers on questions of self, identity and sociality as well as visual representations of race, gender and sexuality. Her work has been published in multiple journals and she co-edited the anthology “Constructing the Nation: A Race and Nationalism Reader.” In 2016, she published “In-Between: Latina Feminist Phenomenology, Multiplicity, and the Self,” analyzing writings by Gloría Anzaldúa, María Lugones and Linda Martín Alcoff in the context of Latina feminism and race theory. She is the founder and director of the Roundtable on Latina feminism, a forum dedicated to discussions of Latina and Latin American feminisms.
6. Blanca Castellón
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Celebrated poet Blanca Castellón is a published author who is currently vice president of the Centro Nicaragüense de Escritores. She has published five books, including “Ama del Espíritu” (1995) and more recently her 2016 release, “Water for Days of Thirst: Selected Poems,” an introspective collection with Nicaragua’s social upheaval as its backdrop. In the year 2000, she received the International Award from the Institute of Modernists.
7. Claribel Alegria
La poeta nicaragüense Claribel Alegría falleció hoy a los 93 años de edad. El año pasado ganó el premio Reina Sofía de Poesía Iberoamericana, siendo la primera mujer centroamericana en recibirlo. Foto: facebook de la escritora. #Nicaragua #claribelalegria #poesía #azacuan #azacuán
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Claribel Alegría is one of Central America’s most prominent writers with both Nicaraguan and Salvadoran roots. Born in Nicaragua in 1924, she grew up in El Salvador and eventually made her way to the U.S. in 1943. Throughout her life, Alegría was committed to nonviolent resistance, even during her close association with the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), the people’s movement that overthrew dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle. In 1985, she returned to Nicaragua to aid its reconstruction. Alegría published numerous works, including the book of poetry “Sorrow,” under her pen name, and was awarded the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, considered the American equivalent of the Nobel. The famed writer passed away in January 2018 at the age of 93 in Managua. She was also featured on our list of Salvadoran writers to check out.
8. Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez
Latina Rebels founder and all-around fierce Latina Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez is one of the most vocal and prominent feminist Latina writers today. She’s been featured on HuffPost, Guerrilla Feminism, Latina magazine, Everyday Feminism and FIERCE, and her writings include popular essays like “Dear Woke Brown Girl,” “Chonga Manifesto” and “I Was Called Llorona Growing Up — But I Was Really Just Crying Out For Help After Years Of Abuse.” She’s a full-time writer, contributing regularly to her Patreon page, she has had her essays published in anthologies like “Nevertheless We Persisted“ and she is currently working on her first book. She was born in Managua and currently resides in Nashville, when she’s not traveling the country for speaking engagements.
9. Martha Cecilia Ruíz
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Social activist and poet Martha Cecilia Ruíz, 45, published her first book in 2016, though her work had been placed in numerous anthologies before then. “Familia de Cuchillos” centers on double morality, inequality and gender violence. In the early 2000s, Ruiz founded the group Three Times Three: Three Women, Three Poets, Three Journalists with Esther Picado and Vilma Duarte. She currently directs the El País Azul radio talk show and sits on the board of directors of the Nicaraguan Association of Writers.