Bachelor of Arts
School or Department
Faculty Mentor Department
Dr. Jody Pavilack
Ernesto Cardenal, Thomas Merton, Nicaragua, Solentiname, Sandinista, Violence
Catholic Studies | Christianity | Ethics in Religion | History of Christianity | History of Religion | Intellectual History | Latin American History | Latin American Languages and Societies | Latin American Literature | Latina/o Studies | Social History | United States History
In 1957, a young Nicaraguan poet named Ernesto Cardenal, recently graduated from Columbia University, entered the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani, located outside Louisville, Kentucky. There he met a prominent Catholic thinker and pacifist, Thomas Merton, who soon mentored young Cardenal. Though Cardenal departed Gethsemani in 1959, Merton continued to counsel him in spirituality, poetry, and social activism until Merton’s death in 1968. While Cardenal during these earlier years was a committed pacifist, his experiences after returning to Nicaragua in 1965 radically altered his view of social action. Cardenal established a semi-monastic community in the Solentiname islands in southern Nicaragua, and in a series of bible studies with the people who came to stay there, found himself increasingly committed to the social vision of the Marxist Sandinista movement. In 1973, Cardenal formally declared his support for the FSLN, the military wing of the Sandinista revolution. By 1979, the revolution succeeded in overthrowing the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza, and Cardenal became the Minister of Culture under the new Sandinista government. This paper will address the formative influence of Thomas Merton on Ernesto Cardenal, and how Cardenal came to accept the use of violence in the pursuit of social justice. In particular, analysis will concentrate on Ernesto Cardenal’s ideological transformations that led to his ultimate support for and involvement in the Sandinista revolution. My research draws from the written correspondence between Merton and Cardenal, and from interviews, and major publications. This paper will argue that while Cardenal never fully supported violence, he nonetheless joined the revolution both out of devotion to Merton’s teaching and out of necessary solidarity with his countrymen.
Honors College Research Project
Jordan, Brendan, "A Monastery for the Revolution: Ernesto Cardenal, Thomas Merton, and the Paradox of Violence in Nicaragua, 1957-1979" (2015). Undergraduate Theses, Professional Papers, and Capstone Artifacts. 33.
Catholic Studies Commons, Christianity Commons, Ethics in Religion Commons, History of Christianity Commons, History of Religion Commons, Intellectual History Commons, Latin American History Commons, Latin American Languages and Societies Commons, Latin American Literature Commons, Latina/o Studies Commons, Social History Commons, United States History Commons
© Copyright 2015 Brendan Jordan