Claribel Alegría was born to Nicaraguan and Salvadoran parents in Estelí, Nicaragua, on May 12, 1924. She grew up in the Santa Ana area of western El Salvador, and in 1943 she moved to the United States. In 1948 she received a BA in philosophy and letters from George Washington University. Throughout her life, Alegría has emphasized her commitment to nonviolent resistance, even during her close association with the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), the people’s movement that took control of the Nicaraguan government in 1979 and overthrew dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle. In 1985, she returned to Nicaragua to aid in the country’s reconstruction. Alegría’s ideological and literary tendencies are a reflection of a literary current that gained momentum in Central America during the 1950s and 1960s known as “la generacion comprometida” (the committed generation).
Alegría has published numerous books of poetry, including Casting Off (Curbstone Press, 2003); Sorrow (Curbstone Press, 1999), which focuses on the death of her companion and translator, Darwin Flakoll; Umbrales (Thresholds; Curbstone Press, 1996); Fugues (Northwestern University Press, 1993); and La mujer del río/Woman of the River (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989), a bilingual edition. She is also a writer of novels and children’s stories.
Alegría won the Cuban-sponsored Casa de las Américas Prize in 1978 for Sobrevivo (I Survive; Casa de las Américas, 1978). She resided in Managua, Nicaragua, until her death on January 25, 2018.