Palma-Ibarra was born in Managua, Nicaragua in 1942. His father, Idelfonso Palma Martínez, a doctor, and his mother, Inés Ibarra de Palma, from Bluefields; he has 4 sisters and 2 brothers. His younger brother, Ricardo Palma, is a guitarist and composer. He attended the "La Salle" Pedagogical Institute in Managua where he studied for Primary, Secondary and Baccalaureate. Palma-Ibarra later spent 1960-1977 in Italy where he attended and studied medicine at the University of Florence, studied painting at the School of Ornamental Arts in San Giacomo, Rome, and took art and history courses at the Academy of San Marcos.
In 1992 Palma-Ibarra inaugurated the Galería El Aguila, and the Museo Fundación Hugo Palma-Ibarra in 2004, both in Managua, Nicaragua.
Awards and recognition
- Sinigaglia-Unitá Awards in Florence, Italy, 1967.
- Silver Medal, Prize of the City in Lucca, Italy, 1970.
- Silver Medal, Prize of the City in Florence, Italy, 1971.
- Special Award, Silver Cup, City of Colleferro in Rome, Italy, 1973.
- Gold Medal, Viareggio Award in Pisa, Italy, 1974.
- First Prize- Naturaleza 96 in Managua, Nicaragua, 1996.
- Second Prize, First Biennale of Nicaraguan Art in Managua, Nicaragua, 1997.
- Recognized as "Citizen of the 20th Century" by the Comisión 2000 in Managua, Nicaragua.