Ernesto Cardenal Martínez was born in 1925 in Granada, Nicaragua. He studied at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. After graduating in 1947, he moved to the United States to study North American literature at Columbia University in New York from 1948 to 1949.
After traveling for a year throughout Europe, Cardenal returned to Nicaragua. He translated and published North American poetry and anonymously wrote political poems against the dictatorship of Somoza. The Chilean poet Pablo Neruda published works by the then-unknown Cardenal in La Gaceta de Chile. While in Nicaragua, Cardenal managed a bookstore that promoted national writers and published El hilo azul, a poetry journal.
In 1954, Cardenal participated in an armed assault against the Somoza regime known as the April Rebellion and continued to write anonymous political poems. Three years later, he drastically changed directions by entering the monastery of Our Lady of Gethsemani in Kentucky, where he met Thomas Merton, his spiritual mentor and lifelong friend. Poor health forced Cardenal to transfer to the Benedictine monastery in Cuernavaca, Mexico. There, he wrote his poetry collection Gethsemani, Ky. and the meditations Abide in Love. He continued his theological studies at the seminary of La Ceja in Colombia. While at the seminary, he wrote poems later collected and translated as Homage to the American Indians. He was ordained a...
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