Cuba Literature Part I

By | December 16, 2021

For three centuries, from the conquest until the end of the eighteenth century, Cuba offers no literary manifestation, although the first cultural clues can be felt since the establishment of the University of Havana (1728), held by the Dominicans until 1842. A late awakening is promoted by realist immigrants, who from the nearby lands crossed by the revolutionary flame take refuge in Cuba, where the government is more tenacious: Manuel de Zequeira (1760-1846) and Manuel Justo de Rubalcava (1769-1805), both of classical education and respectful of the best Spanish tradition, they instill with their lyrical healthy discipline to the imagination and intellectual seriousness. In the periodical literary newspaper El Papel they exercised a salutary influence, although new human and civil orientations were already heralding themselves in the life of the island. A freer spirit and a renewed school were established only with the Royal College of the Seminary (1737): José Agustín Caballero (1771-1835), Félix Varela y Morales (17881853), José de La Luz y Caballero (1800-62), one disciple of the other, advocate you from the same chair, also through the periodical press (El Habanero, El Mensajero Semanal, Cuban bimestre magazine, founded in the United States during the proscription), the philosophy of experience, fighting the scholasticism that had prevailed until then and undermining the foundations of political authority. The life of José María Heredia (1803-1839), the first great Cuban lyricist, is consecrated to form this spiritual atmosphere and to live it with a more intense experience. His poetry (1825-36), marked by the nationalist yearning and tempered in revolutionary daring and in the nostalgia of the exiles, is all pervaded with melodic bitterness and titanic aspirations. In its romantic youth, which closed without the maturity of the years, the purest consciousness of Latin America, which aspires to its own autonomy, is refracted. This will to fight and this sense of unease, that emerge in the agitated background of the homeland in vain striving for the conquest of civil and political liberties, are the leaven of Cuban thought. José Antonio Saco (1797-1879) invested in the practical aspect: advocating the emancipation of slaves, the abolition of the Negro trade, liberal ideals, and finally fighting American annexationism, he aroused the first great social and political ideal, and organized the first parties and the first national struggles around his thought. His companions and valid followers were: José Morales Lemus (1808-1871), Nicolás Azcárate (1828-1894) and the younger Rafael Merchán (1844-1905), together with collaborators of emancipation of the slaves, the abolition of the Negro trade, liberal ideals, and finally fighting American annexation, aroused the first great social and political ideal, and organized the first parties and the first national struggles around his thought. His companions and valid followers were: José Morales Lemus (1808-1871), Nicolás Azcárate (1828-1894) and the younger Rafael Merchán (1844-1905), together with collaborators of emancipation of the slaves, the abolition of the Negro trade, liberal ideals, and finally fighting American annexation, aroused the first great social and political ideal, and organized the first parties and the first national struggles around his thought. His companions and valid followers were: José Morales Lemus (1808-1871), Nicolás Azcárate (1828-1894) and the younger Rafael Merchán (1844-1905), together with collaborators of El Siglo, a newspaper of peaceful reform, and then, during the blind Spanish reaction, generous supporters of the revolution. The resonances of their thought were communicated, when they were not preceded by them, in the song of poets, such as Joaquín Lorenzo Luaces (1826-1867) with La caída de Misolonghi (1855) and with his numerous lyrics, posed to a formal composure but also stirred by an inner energy; and especially Juan Clemente Zenea (1832-1871), whose life passes from one exile to another, up to the death sentence: the idealization of his Cuba in the allegorical poem of Fidelia and the heartfelt elegy of the Cantos de la tarde e of the Nocturnos they are the most vigorous expression of that mood spread from one end of the island to the other. For Cuba 2014, please check thesciencetutor.org.

With the same intentions, but in a more strictly cultural field, the Venetian Domingo Del Monte (1804-1854), director of the Havana Academy, nobly spent his life. A poet himself and a man of action, he made his art the most effective instrument of civil and literary education, teaching a taste for tradition and indicating the first ways for a more concrete and more indigenous inspiration. In this track it was followed by a rich lyrical flowering of popular and folkloristic intonation: Ramón Vélez de Herrera (1808-1886), adapted to Creole life and sang its human heritage and the characteristics of the environment with pictorial attention José Jacinto Milanés (1814-1863), of various inspiration and fertile and iridescent fantasy, he contemplated influence of Espronceda and Zorrilla with a healthier sympathy for the legendary and landscape world of his land; while Francisco Pobeda y Armenteros (1796-1881) represents the figure of the Cuban Trovador, as he was called in his homeland. In their poetry the song of the guajiro returns nostalgically, the Spanish peasant who has forgotten his European origins for the land to which he consecrates his toil and his dream. Thus a new content is introduced, drawn beyond literary schemes, into the immediate life of the island, which, idealized in the lyric, is narrated with psychological concreteness in the prose: alongside the Francisco by Anselmo Suárez y Romero (1818-1878) which describes the unsatisfied love of two young blacks, slaves in the body but dreamers in the spirit, is the affirmation of the novel by Cirilo Villaverde (1812-1894) who alternated, in the anxiety of proscription, the patriotic faith and the passion of the writer. Cecilia Valdés, to which he dedicated his entire life (the 1st part appeared in 1839 and the 2nd in 1882), is the most organic art book about the life of the island.

Cuba Literature Part I