Solentiname Islands

The Solentiname Islands are an archipelago towards the southern end of Lake Nicaragua (also known as Lake Cocibolca) in the Nicaraguan department of Río San Juan.

Ernesto Cardenal Martínez is a Nicaraguan former Catholic priest, poet, and politician. He is a liberation theologian and the founder of the primitivist art community in the Solentiname Islands, where he lived for more than ten years. A member of the Nicaraguan Sandinistas, a party he has since left, he was Nicaragua’s minister of culture from 1979 to 1987.

Mancarrón is Solentiname’s largest island. It is here that the priest and poet Ernesto Cardenal’s historical parish is to be found. Father Cardenal arrived in the islands in 1966 and is known for establishing a communal society for artists in the early 1970s which persists to this day.

The community developed its own naïve art movement based on existing folk forms, and with some help from painter Róger Pérez de la Rocha. There is a small art gallery where the craftsmen and painters display their works: birds, mobiles featuring the local fauna carved out of balsawood, as well as much sought-after colourful primitivist Solentiname paintings, largely inspired by the islands’ rich wildlife and plant species.

Parts of the story “Apocalipsis de Solentiname” by Julio Cortázar are set on the Solentiname Islands. The story features Ernesto Cardenal as a character, as well as the community’s small art gallery.

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