Alegría, Claribel (1924–)

views updated

Alegría, Claribel (1924–)

Claribel Alegría (b. 1924), Salvadoran writer. An outstanding poet, Alegría pioneered feminism as well as the modernization of the Central American novel with her masterpiece, Cenizas de Izalco (Ashes of Izalco, 1965). Her middle-period works have been recognized for their testimonial writing about Salvadoran women. After the death of her husband, she has dedicated considerable time to writing poetry.

Although she was born in Nicaragua, Alegría was taken to El Salvador at age one. She was only seven when the matanza (massacre) of 1932—in which dictator Maximiliano Hernández Martínez assassinated 30,000 peasants in the space of a month—took place. She swore that one day she would write down everything she had witnessed. She studied at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., during the late 1940s and became one of the first Central American women to obtain a university degree. While in Washington she married Darwin Flakoll, with whom she wrote Cenizas de Izalco, which initiated a shift from poetry to narrative as the basic Central American literary form. Flakoll also translated this work in 1989. In the 1950s they moved to the small town of Deyá on the island of Majorca, Spain. They lived next to the English poet Robert Graves, and shared an expatriate life with well-known artists and writers. In 1980 Alegría moved to Nicaragua, where she worked on behalf of the Salvadoran people. She also cowrote with Flakoll her testimonial narrative about women, No me agarrarán viva: La mujer salvadoreña en la lucha (1983), translated by Amanda Hopkinson as They Won't Take Me Alive: Salvadoran Women in the Struggle for National Liberation (1984). Although roughly contemporaneous with the Latin American Boom authors, she has not received the critical attention they have in the English-speaking world.

Besides Cenizas, her books include Sobrevivo (1978), winner of the Casa de las Américas Award; Álbum familiar (1984), translated by Amanda Hopkinson as Family Album (1991); Pueblo de Dios y de mandinga (1985); Luisa en el país de la realidad (1987), translated by Flakoll as Luisa in Realityland (1987); Umbrales (1996); Sorrow (1999); and a tribute to Flakoll who died in 1995, Soltando Amarras, translated as Casting Off (2003). Alegria was awarded the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 2006. Curbstone Press in Willimantic, Connecticut has been the steward and publisher of her works in the United States

See alsoLiterature: Spanish America .


María B. De Membreno, Literatura de El Salvador (1959).

Manlio Argueta, Poesía de El Salvador (1983).

José Coronel Urtecho, Líneas para un boceto de Claribel Alegría (1987).

Sandra Boschetto and Marcia McGowan, eds., Claribel Alegría: An Anthology of Critical Essays (1994).

Additional Bibliography

Barbas-Rhoden, Laura. Writing Women in Central America: Gender and the Fictionalization of History. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2003.

Craft, Linda J. Novels of Testimony and Resistance from Central America. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1997.

Velásquez, Antonio. Las novelas de Claribel Alegría: Historia, sociedad y (re)visión de la estética literaria centroamericana. New York: P. Lang, 2002.

                                             Arturo Arias

More From