Late 19th century writer who wrote in nearly all literary genres: poetry, short stories, novels and criticism. She was mainly known for her novels and essays. She dedicated much of her work to historical research and numerous biographies in the fields of art, music and history. She also earned important recognition for her contributions to translation. Her novels and historical essays about women were identified with a tradition of feminine writing.

Carmela Eulate Sanjurjo was born on August 30, 1871, in the colonial city of San Juan. Her father, Antonio Eulate y Fery, a Spaniard, was the commander and admiral of the Spanish Navy and served as a diplomat in various countries, which directly affected Carmela’s life and education. Her mother, Julia Fernández Sanjurjo, was of Spanish descent and raised in Venezuela.

Carmela was an avid reader as a child. She received a privileged education and was exposed to literary and political discussions that involved prominent figures in Puerto Rico, such as Manuel Fernández Juncos, Manuel Zeno Gandía and José Julián Acosta, among others. She concentrated in literary studies and foreign languages and was fluent in French, English, German, Italian, Arabic and Russian. She also studied music and piano. In 1898, Carmela’s father was transferred to Spain and the family settled in Barcelona after living in various Spanish cities. Carmela accompanied her father on his trips within and beyond Spain, and those experiences became an integral part of her education. Afterwards, she lived in Barcelona until her death in 1961 at 90 years of age. She never returned to the Caribbean.

She began to publish short stories in various magazines in Puerto Rico at age 15, especially in the Revista Puertorriqueña, edited by Manuel Fernández Juncos. She published stories in La Ilustración Puertorriqueña and El Correo de Puerto Rico, Revista de Cuba, La Mujer and El Correo de Ultramar.

She did most of her work in Spain after 1900. Her journalistic works were published in Puerto Rico, Seville, Valencia and Barcelona. She was a prolific lecturer. She presented talks on Chopin and on the evolution of ideas over the centuries. The speeches were notable for their breadth and the variety of content.

Her interests were revealed by the biographies she wrote, such as Isabel la Católica (1925), María Estuardo (1928), Santa Teresa (1931), Vida de Schubert (1942), Vida sentimental de Schiller (1942), Eugenia de Montijo (1946), and others. Among her most ambitious historical essays are La mujer en la historia (1915) and La mujer en el arte (1917). In these studies, Eulate covered the lives of women who, in her judgment, made up the other half of history, or “history as seen from the feminine side.”

Through her knowledge of Arabic language and culture, she became a recognized expert. Her book Cantigas de amor (1920) won her a position as honorary member of the Academy of Arcadia in Rome, where she appeared under the Greek pseudonym Dórida Mesenia. In 1921, she published Antología de poetas orientales, which included Hindu, Hebrew, Afghan, Persian, Chinese and Japanese authors, among others. She later created two translations for children: El Ramayana y Sakuntalá. In 1933, she gathered translations of Byron, Wordsworth, Tennyson, Shelley, Heine, Poe, Verlaine and others in the Antología de poetas occidentals. She left behind about 20 unpublished works, including La mujer en el hogar, which was perhaps an attempt to continue the work she began in other essays about women.

Among her works of fiction are four important novels: La familia de Robredo (1907), Marqués y marquesa (1911), El asombroso doctor Jover (1930) and La muñeca, her first novel, published in Puerto Rico in 1895 with a preface by Puerto Rican writer Manuel Zeno Gandía.

Eulate’s vast and erudite work shows constant intellectual and literary labor, a great aesthetic sensibility and a deep understanding of language. Most of her work was done outside the circles of Madrid. This is one of the reasons, according to some critics, why Eulate did not gain the attention she deserved, in addition to her great modesty and the fact that she was considered a foreigner by the Spaniards. The absence of information about and studies of her work are testimony to the lack of recognition of Eulate both in and beyond Puerto Rico, which has raised questions about this writer and made her an enigmatic and interesting figure.

Author: Ana Zeno
Published: April 30, 2012.

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