Sergio Ramírez delivers Rubén Darío's legacy to the Cervantes Institute as a hymn to "freedom of thought and expression"

After criticising the arrest warrant in his country for "unfounded accusations", the foreign minister told him: "You can count on Spain"

Instituto Cervantes / Fernando Gutiérrez  -   Sergio Ramírez (left) and Leonardo Padura embrace in the Caja de las Letras, in the presence of the director of the Cervantes Institute, Luis García Montero

On Monday, the Cervantes Institute's Caja de las Letras received the bequests of the great poet Rubén Darío (1867 - 1916), deposited "in memoriam" by another Nicaraguan, Sergio Ramírez, and the Cuban writer Leonardo Padura. Presided over by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, the event became an express and forceful support for Sergio Ramírez following the arrest warrant issued by the Public Prosecutor's Office in his country (forcing him into forced exile) and a hymn to "freedom of thought, expression and criticism", which is literature.

The Foreign Minister told Sergio Ramírez that, despite the "unfounded accusations, this will always be your country and your home doubly", because he already has Spanish nationality and because "this is the country of freedom and democracy". "You are a literary reference, but also a moral and intellectual one", he said, stressing that your career is marked by the defence of democracy and fundamental rights. For this reason, "you can count on Spain and the Spanish government in these difficult times".

The director of the Cervantes Institute recalled that he met Ramírez at the end of the 1970s, when he was a member of a committee of Solidarity with Central America and worked with Ernesto Cardenal, Gioconda Belli and Sergio Ramírez himself. The dictator Somoza persecuted him for the same reasons that Daniel Ortega uses today, which means that "we defend the same values that we have always defended".

Luis García Montero, who in 2019 inaugurated the library named after the Nicaraguan at the Cervantes in Hamburg, announced that the author of 'Castigo divino' will be touring the Institute's centres in the UK, Germany and France in the coming months.

There was a time, he said, when "the criticisms of the caudillos used something in which they were right, they recalled certain scenes, certain dynamics that recalled imperialism, conquest, arrogance, imperial rhetoric". But "Spain has changed completely, and today, when a caudillo picks on Spain, he picks on the defence of the values of democracy both in our country and in all the countries that want to count on us".

For this reason, he concluded, "it is an honour to have you here", because "we do not forget that for Spain culture is a commitment to democracy and to the values of coexistence and human beings".

Sergio Ramírez confessed to feeling "truly overwhelmed" by the great amount of support he had received: "It makes me feel better about being in forced exile, which is the hardest thing anyone can be subjected to" by a dictatorship that is an enemy of books. Ramírez claimed to be a writer, not a politician (his time as vice-president of his country, with Ortega at the helm, was far behind him), but now he is being persecuted for his most recent novel, 'Tongolele no sabía bailar', which exposes the human rights violations in the streets of Managua and other cities in 2018.

Content of the legacies

Beyond the difficult situation he is going through, Sergio Ramírez praised his admired Rubén Darío, the greatest representative of literary modernism in the Spanish language, of whom he left a legacy "in memoriam" in box number 722 with two objects. It is a small round wooden box with earth taken from the garden of the author's ancestral home in the city of León, where today the Darío museum-archive is located. And, in addition, a first edition (from 1905) of 'Cantos de vida y esperanza' (Songs of Life and Hope), considered to be the masterpiece of Darío's poetry.

The other great protagonist on Monday was Leonardo Padura, winner of the 2015 Princess of Asturias Award for Literature. The most published and recognised Cuban writer today deposited in box 697 the first version of 'La novela de mi vida' (2002), a copious set of pages containing multiple annotations by the founding director of Tusquets, Beatriz de Moura.

With this donation to the Cervantes Institute, which will go from the Caja de las Letras to the Biblioteca Patrimonial, Padura wanted to pay homage "to a fundamental person in my career and in that of many other writers" and to thank the work of the renowned publisher for her support and help to authors.

He also left "the first pages, even before the writing process" of 'Como polvo en el viento' (2020), his most recent narrative work. This document, "for me very revealing", will remain in the Caja de las Letras for a period of time that has not yet been decided, said the novelist, literary critic, essayist and author of film scripts.

After the presentation of the bequests, the Cervantes Institute presented a book on his work, with which it opens a collection that will analyse the creation of contemporary Spanish-speaking writers. This first volume is entitled 'The Writing of Leonardo Padura', and analyses general questions about the novelist and essayist's varied oeuvre and some of his most outstanding titles.

Padura spoke about this collective work with the editor and journalist Juan Cruz, the writer Sergio Ramírez, and the art critic, researcher and poet Rafael Acosta de Arriba, who is responsible for the edition together with Stephen Silverstein.

With this title, the Cervantes Institute inaugurates 'Las ínsulas prometidas', a collection of critical studies and academic research that will analyse the creation of writers from the contemporary pan-Hispanic community. 

This week's legacies will be followed this week by other Iberoamerican deliveries: on Tuesday, by the Salvadoran Horacio Castellanos, and on Thursday, by the Colombian Minister of Culture, as well as another (on Wednesday) by the publishing house Planeta on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the literary prize it awards every year. With these activities, and the event to be held in the Congress of Deputies on Friday, the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of the creation of the Instituto Cervantes will come to an end.

Submitted by José Antonio Sierra, Hispanismo advisor.