Nemesio Canales was a Puerto Rican writer, politician and lawyer. He produced a huge number of journalistic articles of social, political and literary criticism, generally with a humorous tone. He was a member of the Unionist Party, which promoted autonomy for Puerto Rico. In his work as a member of the House of Representatives, he lobbied for the rights of Puerto Rican women.
Born in Jayuya on December 18, 1878, he was the son of Rosario Canales and Francisca Rivera. His primary studies took place in his home town and in the municipality of Utuado, while his secondary studies were completed in Mayaguez. He began studying medicine in Zaragoza, Spain, but left his studies when the Spanish-American War broke out. Later, he studied law at the University of Baltimore and graduated in 1903.
He worked as a lawyer in Ponce and, later, in San Juan, with Luis Lloréns Torres. Also, along with Lloréns and Miguel Guerra Mondragón, he created a literary society in San Juan that included many of his contemporary intellectuals. He also was a professor at the University of Puerto Rico Law School.
Canales was a militant politician from a young age and a follower of Marxism. In 1908, he was a delegate to the House of Representatives from the Unionist Party, which was opposed to the incorporation of Puerto Rico into the United States. In the legislature, he argued on behalf of women’s civil rights and the right to vote. He presented a bill to grant women equal rights to men, particularly the right to vote.
As a writer, he excelled in writing essays. He published a huge number of articles in various newspapers such as El Eco de Puerto Rico and El Día, which published his column Paliques. Due to its popularity, the columns were compiled into a book in 1913. He also wrote for La Democracia and the Revista de las Antillas; founded the magazine Juan Bobo (1915); directed Idearium (1917), La Semana (1922) and Cuasimodo (Panama). During his youth, he wrote poetry and later tried his hand at fiction with the novel Mi voluntad se ha muerto (1921) and the theatrical comedy El héroe galopante (1935). In the latter, he criticizes the society of the era and presents his feminist ideas.
He died in New York on September 14, 1923.
Rivera de Alvarez, Josefina. Literatura puertorriqueña, su proceso en el tiempo. Madrid: Ediciones Panteón, 1983.
Del Rosario, Rubén. Breve Enciclopedia de la Cultura Puertorriqueña. Hato Rey: Ediciones Cordillera, 1976.
Vélez, Rigoberto. Puertorriqueños Ilustres de todos los tiempos. Ponce: Editorial Centro Pedagógico, 1986.
Gran Enciclopedia de Puerto Rico
Autor: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 15, 2014.
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