Biography

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 497

Clara Isabel Alegría Vides was born in Estelí, Nicaragua, to a Salvadoran mother and a Nicaraguan father, but her family soon moved to Santa Ana, El Salvador, because of the political problems her father suffered as a Sandino sympathizer. In 1932, she witnessed the Matanza, in which more than thirty...

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Clara Isabel Alegría Vides was born in Estelí, Nicaragua, to a Salvadoran mother and a Nicaraguan father, but her family soon moved to Santa Ana, El Salvador, because of the political problems her father suffered as a Sandino sympathizer. In 1932, she witnessed the Matanza, in which more than thirty thousand peasants were slaughtered by government troops after a peaceful protest against the military dictatorship.

Alegría published her first poems in 1941. In 1943, she went to the United States to attend a girls’ school near New Orleans, Louisiana. She next attended George Washington University, where she met her husband, Flakoll, an American journalist from South Dakota who was studying for his master of arts degree. They married in December, 1947. In 1948, Alegría graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and letters. Later that same year, her first book of poetry, Anillo de silencio (ring of silence), was published in Mexico. She gave birth to a daughter, Maya, in Washington, D.C., in 1949, and twin daughters, Patricia and Karen, in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1950. In 1951, the family visited El Salvador briefly before moving to Mexico, where their circle included various writers and intellectuals, some living in exile like Alegría.

In 1953, the family moved to Santiago, Chile, where they lived for almost three years, to work on an anthology (and translation) of Latin American writers and poets, New Voices of Hispanic America, which introduced writers such as Juan Rulfo and Julio Cortázar, who would later be part of the “boom” in Latin American literature. Her son Erik was born in Santiago in 1954. In 1956, the family returned to the United States, where Flakoll applied to the U.S. Foreign Service. In 1958, he was appointed second secretary to the U.S. Embassy in Montevideo, Uruguay, and two years later, he was posted to Argentina. However, Flakoll became disillusioned by the world of politics and resigned from the Foreign Service. In 1962, Alegría and Flakoll moved to Paris, where they met many Latin American writers living in exile, including Carlos Fuentes, Mario Benedetti, and Mario Vargas Llosa. Alegría and Flakoll and worked on the first of many subsequent collaborations, producing her first novel, Ashes of Izalco, whose publication in Spain was delayed by censorship. In 1966, the family moved to Mallorca, where they lived for many years.

In 1979, after the Sandinistas overthrew the dictatorship of Anastasio Somosa in Nicaragua, Alegría and her husband went to Nicaragua to do research for a testimonial on the revolution. In 1980, a right-wing group assassinated outspoken human rights advocate and Roman Catholic archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador. Alegría gave a poetic eulogy for Romero at the Sorbonne in Paris. Her public criticism of Salvadoran government atrocities earned her a spot on a death list and made her a political exile from her adopted homeland. In 1983, Alegría and Flakoll moved permanently to Nicaragua. Flakoll died in 1995. Alegría remained in Nicaragua and has mentored numerous poets, including Gioconda Belli and Daisy Zamora.

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