Julia de Burgos was one of Puerto Rico’s most talented poets. Born in Carolina to a humble family on February 17, 1914. Julia Constancia Burgos García studied at the University of Puerto Rico and taught in the public schools of the island. Her first poems, published in 1937, were entitled Poemas exactos a mi misma (Exact Poems of Myself) and already stressed her intense lyrical, subjective mood. In 1938, she published Poemas en veinte surcos (Poems in Twenty Furrows), to be followed a year later by Canción de la verdad sencilla (Song of the Simple Truth). Both books established her reputation as one of the leading contemporary poets not only in Puerto Rico, but in the Spanish Caribbean.
Julia de Burgos led a tortured, unhappy life. In 1940, she left for New York and later visited Cuba, where she studied philosophy at the University of Havana. Returning to New York, she was unable to adjust to life in the big city. On July 5, 1953, she tragically died at an early age, at a time when her poetry was receiving its widest acclaim.
Julia de Burgos was highly interested in social reform and libertarian causes. But she was above all a metaphysical poet, profoundly concerned with the themes of love and death, and their meaning to the human condition. Her love of nature and her nostalgic feeling for Puerto Rico, intertwined with her refined eroticism, were best expressed in her most famous poem, dedicated to the island’s longest river, el Río Grande de Loíza.
In her oft-quoted A Julia de Burgos, she challenged not only herself but all women to think about the roles imposed on them by society and those they wished for themselves: Tú eres dama casera, resignada, sumisa, atada a los prejuicios de los hombres; yo no; que yo soy Rocinante corriendo desbocado olfateando horizontes de justicia de Dios. . . “You are a homemaker, resigned, meek, tied to the whims of men; not I; I am the horse Rocinante galloping unreigned toward the horizons of God’s justice…”.
Julia de Burgos, whose collected poems were published by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture under the title La obra poética de Julia de Burgos, is a towering figure in the long gallery of Puerto Rican literary figures and humanists.
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 15, 2014.
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