For half a century, the songs of Luis Enrique Mejía Godoy have been inspired by the pains and joys of Nicaragua. His lyrics are passed down from generation to generation as social references that are now, he says, symbols of resistance, disrespect and freedom.
Mejía Godoy spoke about his social chants at an event organized by the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington on Tuesday, hosted by Nicaraguan journalist Carlos Fernando Chamorro.
“Art is a vehicle for the expression of many things, of feelings, emotional and political feelings, and in the case of Nicaragua, art shows itself in different ways… starting with the movement Manuel Orozco, director of migration, remittances and development of the Inter-American Dialogue.
Orozco added that in the political crisis, music “again takes a special and leading place” after the protests that took place in April 2018, which began after the government of President Daniel Ortega approved a combination of reforms. number of contributions.
The reforms, although withdrawn after the demonstrations, raised social discontent and soon the demands of the citizens developed. The protests began demanding the resignation of Ortega, who assumed power in 2007, amid allegations of electoral fraud and constitutional reforms that eliminated limits on presidential re-election in this Central American country.
The government’s reaction to the cycle of protests has left more than 300 dead due to State repression, according to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Between attacks by the Police and irregular government service forces, the demonstrations are full of symbolism, satire and music, as happened in the 1979 Sandinista revolution that ousted the dictator Anastasio Somoza.
Some singer-songwriters who composed testimonial songs during the revolution that ousted Somoza, such as Mejía Godoy, opposed the Ortega government, denouncing the establishment of “a new dictatorship that worse than Somoza’s.”
Mejía Godoy is one of the artists exiled in Costa Rica since 2019 “after accompanying the outbreak of the rebellion in April with his usual songs,” as described by Chamorro.
The power of social singing
“One thing they can never take from us is our speech. Just as they cannot imprison hope, they cannot confiscate our words,” said Mejía Godoy about his experience through social literature.
The singer-songwriter, whose career spans more than 50 years, has produced more than 30 albums with many songs that are now symbols of national identity and social anthems in Nicaragua.
For Mejía Godoy, these struggles are not new. “This is an ancient fight for freedom, for democracy, for human rights, for peace,” he said.
“I stubbornly defend social singing as a right of the people and my people for more than 50 years, especially in the case of Nicaragua. “We artists are never separated from the interests of the people ,” said the singer-songwriter.
During their conversation, Chamorro expressed to Mejía Godoy how his songs, written decades ago, remain valid in their call to maintain hope for the future. An expression that, according to the singer-songwriter, he wants to be different.
“When they tell me how barbaric your song is, I don’t like that, because I wrote it with the desire that things would change and they didn’t,” he said.
Hope, according to the singer-songwriter, is sung by “believing it.” Especially after the protests, Mejía Godoy assured that he proposed to write “only at the request of the heart and conscience.”
“Despite the repression and the police state we live in Nicaragua, there is a large community of writers, poets, musicians, singer-songwriters, filmmakers of different generations who have been exiled or who have been expelled or prevented from going to their homeland. And from the United States, from Costa Rica, from Spain they continue to create culture and this art of resistance,” added Chamorro.
At the age of 73, and in his second exile, he claims to feel in a “privileged” position compared to other Nicaraguans living in Costa Rica. “I thought it would be more difficult for me to reintegrate into that society, and it turned out that the grandparents, as often happens, the parents, the older children, continued to sing my songs and that is a precious thing, because they are the ones who allow the music and the song not to become ashes,” he concluded.
In front of an audience of former political prisoners and exiles in Washington, Mejía Godoy ended the night with a song titled “Me Quitaron Todo,” which he wrote in 2023 “to all these comrades who tried to take his nationality, they were deported, expatriated, confiscated, they were robbed, insulted and they continue to persecute their families.”