Laura Gallego Otero

Laura Gallego Otero

Poet whose verses were part of the literary tradition of the 1940s and 1950s, which was characterized by an anguished and pessimistic view of the changes in the cultural, social and political orders that were taking place on the island. She was also known as an educator and essayist and for her untiring defense of the language.

Laura Gallego Otero was born on February 9, 1924, in Bayamón. She completed both her primary and secondary studies at the Santa Rosa school in her hometown. She earned a bachelor’s degree in teaching with a specialization in Spanish literature and language at the University of Puerto Rico. She completed her master’s degree in Hispanic Studies at the same institution and presented her monograph, Las ideas literarias de Evaristo Ribera Chevremont (1962). At the university, she was a disciple of educators and writers Margot Arce, Concha Meléndez and Antonia Sáez.

In 1946, she began teaching at a high school in her hometown. In 1955, she joined the faculty of the College of Education at the University of Puerto Rico. Later, she was named supervisor of Spanish teaching practices in secondary education at the college (1959-1974). She retired from the college in 1980. Later, she worked as Vice President of Academic Affairs and Student Resources at the Central University of Bayamón.

Laura Gallego Otero dedicated much of her life to writing poetry. Her first book, titled Presencia (1952), collected poems written prior to the 1950s. Love is the main theme in this youthful work, which presents a nostalgic and tender tone. In search of a style of her own, she also experimented with various forms and styles that show influences of José Antonio Dávila. Her personal voice is palpable in Celajes (1959), a book of poetry that compiled works created between 1950 and 1953. The main themes are the island’s heritage and landscapes.

In 1972, Laura Gallego: Obra poética was issued, a book that collected a selection of earlier poems, as well as four previously unpublished poems. The first, Almejas de tu nombre (1954), contains 18 poems in prose form whose principal theme is the painful experience of love expressed in a tone of regret and anguish. En carne viva (1955) is a long poem in seven parts whose principal themes are death and pain, with a harsh and cruel voice. This stage of violent and heartbreaking poetic expression reached its peak in La red (1956-1960). The voice of the poet in La del ala sería (1960-1964) begins with pessimistic acceptance – typical of existentialism – of the past and of the surrounding world. It consists of poems of social and historical criticism and that praise significant figures in the political struggle, such as Pedro Albizu Campos and Juan Antonio Corretjer.

In 1979, she published Que voy de vuelo, an edition illustrated by María Emilia Somoza. Once again, she aimed her vision at the past. Love is the main theme, but this time there is a balance between bitterness and tenderness. Her final book of new poetry was Arirán (1991), which consists of a long poem in which she repeats the Korean word arirán. Finally, in 2005, an expanded edition of her complete works was published under the title of Laura Gallego: cincuenta años de poesía, which included, in addition to the collections mentioned above, El amor combatido (1975), a long poem of fifteen sections in which she tries to purge an unreachable love that she describes at times with tender emotion and other times with bitterness.

Gallego also contributed articles and poems to various island magazines such as Alma Latina, Asomante, Orfeo, Revista de la Asociación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, Revista del Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, Sin Nombre and the newspaper El Mundo. She also helped create the monthly Bayoán (1950), along with Luis Hernández Aquino, and the magazine Poesía (1953), a short-lived periodical on which collaborated with Juan M. García Passalacqua, Juan Ramón Jiménez and Violeta López Suria, among others. In 1983, the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture published her master’s thesis, Las ideas literarias de Evaristo Ribera Chevremont.

Laura Gallego was also a tenacious defender of the teaching of the Spanish language. She believed that Spanish teachers had the responsibility to inculcate respect for the Spanish language and literature in students. She began with the premise that Spanish should be the central focus of the student curriculum, as it is through language that knowledge is understood. Her ideas led her to publish, along with Ernesto Camilli and Luis de Arrigoitía, the book Habla y lengua puertorriqueña: antología, manual de práctica gramatical, ejercicios de redacción (1973).

In 1984, the University of Puerto Rico awarded her the title of professor emeritus. She was also a member for more than ten years of the Board of Directors of the Puerto Rican Endowment for the Humanities. That organization honored her in 2002 by naming her Humanist of the Year, an honor granted to those who throughout their careers have contributed to knowledge of the Humanities in Puerto Rico. During the award ceremony, Gallego presented her featured lecture, titled “Evocación de José Antonio Dávila.”

Professor Laura Gallego Otero died in December of 2007.

References:

Arrigoitia, Luis de. Laura Gallego en su poesía. Laura Gallego: cincuenta años de poesía (1950-2000). De Laura Gallego. San Juan, P. R.: La Editorial, Universidad de Puerto Rico, 2008. Impreso.

“Fundación Puertorriqueña de las Humanidades rinde homenaje a distinguida profesora y escritora”. Fundación Puertorriqueña de las Humanidades, 16 octubre 2003. Web. 18 marzo 2010.

Rivera de álvarez, Josefina. Diccionario de literatura puertorriqueña. 2a ed. Vol 2. San Juan, P. R.: Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, 1974. Impreso.

Rivera de álvarez, Josefina. Literatura puertorriqueña: su proceso en el tiempo. Madrid: Partenón, 1983. Impreso

Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 16, 2014.

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