Banderas y Harapos (Flags and Rags) by Gabriela Selser
By Sonia Gonzalez (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES – “Banderas y harapos” (Flags and Rags), the new memoir of the Sandinista Revolution (1979-1990) by the Argentine-Nicaraguan journalist Gabriela Selser, aroused many conflicting emotions – from love to disillusionment – during last Thursday’s book-launching event in Managua.
Speaking before a full auditorium in a highly charged atmosphere, author Sergio Ramírez, who wrote the prologue, stated that the book is “full of living nostalgia.”
The book covers Selser’s direct experiences in the 1980 literacy crusade and later her eye-witness accounts of the war between the Sandinistas and the “contras” that bloodied Nicaragua for almost a decade.
Also in attendance were poets Gioconda Belli, Claribel Alegría, and singer-songwriters Norma Elena Gadea and Luis Enrique Mejía Godoy.
Selser’s “adoptive parents” during the literacy crusade, which mobilized thousands of young people to the remotest areas of Nicaragua for six months, were present in the first row of the Central American University’s auditorium.
The book is “an attractive mix of direct and steely journalistic prose and evocative and nostalgic literary language”, expressed Ramírez, who served as Nicaragua’s vice president in the 80s.
The narration of Gabriela Selser’s “personal story” is “her highest tribute”, because it was born from memories of her direct experiences with different protagonists of the revolution, from her participation as a literacy teacher to her work in later years a war correspondent, Ramírez affirmed.
The book “distances itself from speech-making, from discourses in favor of or against events that today, for someone that lived through them, deserve to be recounted only by the light of the coals of memory and not of prejudice,” he stated.
Emotions flared higher with the participation of Luis Enrique Mejía Godoy and Norma Elena Gadea, who sang “Nicaragua, Nicaragüita”, a kind of second national anthem, drawing the public to its feet in applause.
Mejía Godoy also presented a brand new song, “For that I live”, based on an interview with Selser regarding her book.
It’s an honor to be able to share our songs and assure that the past not blow away like ashes but serve us to reseed our dreams,” he added.
Sorrow, wounds of war that are still not healed, grief, and responsibility for constructing the country’s future were the recurring themes of those who – more than asking questions – expressed their anxiety and emotions in the period of exchange with the author.
Irwing Dávila, a retired military officer, summed up: “My emotions are mixed: sensations of joy, rage, sadness and nostalgia. We saw a lot of people die, and it’s very difficult to rise above those moments.”
In the end, “we all have a story to tell” of those years marked by the war, he added.
Another of those present asked that the names of the dead from both sides be published to “create a true history” and heal the wounds of the families who lost their loved ones.
Even though the war reached an end in June 1990, “nothing has been done in the country to heal the wounds,” stated psychologist Martha Cabrera, who participated at the book launching.
The Sandinista revolution was “a life project,” for those who had deposited their hopes in it.
Selser, currently the correspondent for the DPA news agency in Nicaragua, arrived in the country in 1980 for a short stay but fell in love with it and has lived here for the last three decades.