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This report is taken from PN Review 253, Volume 46 Number 5, May - June 2020.

Ernesto Cardenal and Sir Francis Drake Richard Gwyn
To schoolchildren of my generation, Sir Francis Drake was a hero, the epitome of English sangfroid, insisting on finishing his game of bowls before dealing with the Spanish Armada, as it sailed up the Channel. It didn’t happen quite like that, of course, but who cares. The sea captains who forged the first imprint of Empire under Elizabeth I have gone down here as great patriots, but children in schools throughout Iberia and Latin America know them simply as pirates. I remember looking through the history homework of my friend Nelson Pereira’s younger sister, Elsa, while staying at their house outside Lisbon in 1983 and being shocked to see Drake being vilified in categorical terms. I imagine he doesn’t get much of a press in Irish school history books either, as he was involved in a massacre of 600 people during the English enforced plantation of Ulster in 1575. But that is how it goes: history is an imprecise art. Rather like fiction, in fact.

While in Argentina recently I got into a lengthy discussion about the pirate Drake, and buccaneers of his ilk, on discovering that Drake also entered the River Plate on his travels and sailed up the Paraná. I said to my companions that in Britain we did not speak of Drake as a pirate at all, not by any means, and that the first time I had heard him referred to in those terms was reading Gabriel Garcia Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Following the death on 1 March of the great Nicaraguan poet ...


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