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Capangpangan, Ilac Raphaell A.

Professor Jose Duke Bagulaya


English 10
29 May 2015

Reaction Paper on the Final Offensive by Ernesto Cardenal


Ernesto Cardenal, born in 1925, is a Catholic priest and Nicaraguan activist. He is
considered the leading Latin American protest-poet of his generation, as well as being the
most radically minded of those Roman Catholic priests whose commitment to social change has
given rise to the theology of liberation (Pring-Mill, 1979). Cardenal is a member of the
Sandinista Liberation Front (Frente Sandinista de Liberacin Nacional, FSLN) despite his earlier
commitment to non-violence. (Zimmermann, 2000). According to Pottenger (1989),
The political theory of Sandinismo criticizes dependent capitalism, while supporting a
commitment to some kind of market socialism or mixed economy. It also argues for a
commitment to freedom of expression, especially political pluralism, and to racial and
sexual equality, which provides the theoretical foundation necessary for the Sandinista
attempt to democratize political processes at virtually all levels of society.

The FSLN was against then President Anastasio Somoza DeBayles dictatorship in Nicaragua
supported by the United States. During these times, Cardenal will play an important role in
overthrowing the Somoza dynasty.
Cardenal wrote poems in using what he called exteriorist poetry. He described this kind
of poetry in an anthology (1972) as,
. . . objective: narrative and anecdotal, made from elements of real life and concrete
things, with proper names and precise details and exact dates and statistics and facts and
quotes.

Clearly, his poems are characterized by concrete details and imagery to give reflection to the political
situation in Nicaragua during those times. This style of poetry became an efficient way to make the reader
feel and interpret the experiences of the oppressed (McLean, 1989).
In Cardenals poem, Final offensive, he makes use of the events during the Nicaraguan
Revolution of 1979 to demonstrate his exteriorist style of poetry writing. In this poem, he made
comparisons between voyages to the moon and the Nicaraguan revolutionaries struggle against the
Somoza dynasty stating:
It was like a voyage to the moon
with complexity and precision in all details
accounting for all that was foreseen
and also what was not
A voyage to the moon in which the slightest mistake could be fatal. (1-5)

In the starting lines of his poem, Cardenal gave emphasis to the importance of precision,
coordination, proper communication and readiness for sudden changes in the situation between
the people going to space or in this case, the participants of the revolution because a single
mistake might prove to be the end of their revolution.
In the following lines, names of places and their corresponding codenames were used by
Cardenal. The seventh and fourteenth lines of the poem reveal what the codenames are:
Workshop was Len, Assumption Masaya, Cornfield Estel.
Office was Managua.

The first three were part of the places in Nicaragua that were most affected by combat and
employment of heavy artillery and aerial bombardment (Report on the, par. 3) where small bands
of Sandinistas struck in an effort to produce a series of coordinated uprisings. The latter,
however, was the capital city of Nicaragua where combat between the citizens and the National
Guard continued for days even after the FSLN cadres had managed to escape (Lake, 1990).
There were also some people mentioned in the poem who had their fair share of
contribution during the revolution:
And the calm voice of Dora Mara, the girl from Workshop, (8)
And the voice of Rubn in Estel. The voice of Joaqun in Office. (13)

Now it begins, Rugama, to belong to the poor; this earth (25)

Dora Mara was a comandante(commander) of the FSLN during the revolution and was part of
an operation that stormed the Nicaraguan National Palace in Managua where they were able to
free key members of the FSLN and gain funds for their revolution (Randall, 1994). This explains
why the lines where Dora Mara is speaking in the poem gives off an air of superiority. She was
also able to occupy Len days before the revolution came to an end and the Somoza dynasty was
defeated. Rubn Dario is Nicaraguas national poet (Cardenal & Cohen, 2009) and probably was
someone who influenced Cardenal in being a poet-revolutionist while Joaqun is Pedro Joaqun
Chamorro who had a long history of public and internationally visible opposition to the Somoza
regime, primarily due to his writing (Anderson, 2010). He was assassinated by Somozas
henchmen on January 9, 1978 (Anderson, 2010) explaining the fifteenth line of the poem where
it might have hinted on the defeat of the revolutionaries and possible death of Joaqun in
Managua. On the other hand, Leonel Rugama was a FSLN member and poet who died on a
shootout against Somozas National Guard. More importantly, he wrote the La Tierra es un
Satlite de la Luna (The Earth is a Satellite of the Moon) wherein he criticized the United States
for the amount of money they are spending for space expeditions while the people of
Acahualinca are dying of hunger. The last line of his poem, with a sarcastic tone, says blessed
are the poor for they shall inherit the moon signifies just how much money the United States is
using in its expeditions that can instead be used to help the dying people of Acahualinca.
Cardenal also used a clear way of adjectives to set the tone of the poem and the air that
each line is supposed to give off. It is evident throughout the poem the tone of anxiety and
carefulness while at the same time showing how calm and well-prepared the characters are. The
former is most evident in the following lines of the poem:
saying that enemy reinforcements are circling in
dangerously, (9-10)
Office would be out of ammunition in two more days (Over). (15)
And Dora Mara: We dont have the rear guard well-guarded. Over. (17)

The literal use of the words calm and serene also showed the composure and readiness of the
speaker for situations that are yet to arise.
The final lines of the poem portray the last stages of the Sandinistas struggle against the
Sozoma dictatorship. Cardenal wrote:

It was like a voyage to the moon. And with no mistakes.


So very many coordinating their work in the great project.
The moon was the earth. Our piece of the earth.
And we got there.
Now it begins, Rugama, to belong to the poor; this earth
(with its moon). (21-26)
In the first line above, the word it signifies the FSLNs cause to overthrow the dictatorship of
Somoza and Cardenal cleverly compared it to a voyage to the moon which had an unsure chance
of succeeding and a high cost of expenditure for the reader to picture the great amount of
sacrifices made for the revolution to succeed. In the line so very many coordinating their work
in the great project, symbolizes the revolutionaries in working together for their cause. In the
twenty-third line of the poem, however, the moon was used to symbolize their goal of
overthrowing Somozas dynasty and the next lines say that the revolutionists were successful in
achieving their goal.

Works Cited
Anderson, L. (2010). Social Capital in Developing Democracies Nicaragua and Argentina
Compared (pp. 60-62). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Brentlinger, J. (1995). The Best of what We are: Reflections on the Nicaraguan
Revolution.

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Cardenal, E., & Cohen, J. (2009). Introduction: Songs of Heaven and Earth. In Pluriverse:
New and Selected Poems (p. XI). New York: New Directions Pub.
Craven, D. (2006). Art and Revolution in Latin America, 1910-1990. Retrieved May 24,
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Dawes, G. (1993). Aesthetics and Revolution: Nicaraguan poetry, 1979-1990 (pp. 79-80).
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McLean, G. (1989). Culture, human rights, and peace in Central America (p. 150).
Lanham: University Press of America.
Pottenger, J. (1989). The political theory of liberation theology toward a reconvergence of
social values and social science (p. 124). Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press.
Pring-Mill, R. (1979). Profile: Ernesto Cardenal. 49-53.
Randall, M. (1994). Sandino's daughters revisited: Feminism in Nicaragua (p. 209). New
Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.

Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Nicaragua. (n.d.). Retrieved May 28, 2015,
from http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/iachr/country-reports/nicaragua1978-ch2.html
Zimmermann, M. (2000). Sandinista: Carlos Fonseca and the Nicaraguan Revolution.
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