Pharmacist, writer, short story writer, essayist, journalist and lexicographer. His work ranged from scientific topics, in keeping with his education as a pharmacist and chemist, to literary criticism, linguistic correctness and humorous short stories, which were the personal stamp on his fiction writing. Because of his passion for vocabulary, he was one of fifty Puerto Ricans included in the nineteenth edition of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language Dictionary (1970).
He was born on November 28, 1899, in Ponce. He studied in elementary school in Arroyo and high school in Guayama. He later enrolled at the Temple University Preparatory School in Philadelphia, where he earned a degree in Pharmacy and Chemistry in 1925. He returned to Puerto Rico and later worked for the federal government as a chemist in the Federal Laboratory of the Internal Revenue Service’s Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Taxation (1943-1963), and then retired. He was president of the Association of Chemists and the Puerto Rico Pharmacy Examining Board, director of the Revista Farmacéutica journal and co-editor of the Boletín del Colegio de Químicos.
In addition to being an outstanding scientist, he cultivated his passion for literature through his essays and short stories, beginning in his youth when he contributed to the monthly publication Páginas de Juventud and the newspapers El Día and El Aguila de Puerto Rico, all based in Ponce. He also contributed to the San Juan weekly, Puerto Rico Ilustrado. As a professional, he wrote for El carnaval, El Mundo, Puerto Rico Ilustrado and Alma Latina, among other publications. These articles addressed his literary appreciation for Puerto Rican authors such as Enrique Laguerre, María Cadilla de Martínez, José P.H. Hernández, Manuel Zeno Gandía, Antonio Pedreira, Carmelina Vizcarrondo and Luis Villaronga, and foreign authors such as Azorín, Maeterlinck, Juan Ramón Jiménez and Pirandello. Many of these articles were collected in his first book, Críticas profanas (1936).
In the genre of the short story, he wrote the tales that make up the anthology Cazador de imposibles (unpublished), which includes “Montaña en flor” (1954), a story that won a prize from the Coffee Producers Cooperative of Puerto Rico. His other two collections of stories are Catorce pecados de humor y una vida descabellada (1959) and La rebelión de los átomos (1960). In the three collections, Llorens reveals, according to Josefina Rivera de Alvarez: “the desire to collect, with a realistic vision, the environmental essence and the people who characterize Puerto Rican life, both in the urban centers of the small towns and in the rural interior of the island.” His command of the language enabled him to choose the colloquial urban and rural expressions that added greater authenticity to his tales.
Many of his essays addressed linguistic studies. He prepared the unpublished Antología de barbarismos en Puerto Rico, an anthology that collected the grammatical and lexical errors that had filtered into the spoken language and into literary use in Puerto Rican Spanish. In 1955, when the Puerto Rican Academy of the Spanish Language was founded, he presented the lecture “Los dedos de la mano”, novela de Enrique Laguerre o la vitalidad del español en Puerto Rico (1955), when he was named a member of the organization. As a member of the Academy, he represented Puerto Rico at the Second Congress of Academies of Language held in Madrid (1956) and participated in other congresses held in various cities in South America. In 1956, he accepted the post of secretary of the Lexicographical Committee, as well as editorial writer for the magazine Alma Latina in San Juan.
Among his works on literary criticism, linguistics and lexicographical studies are Un intruso en el jardín de Academo (1957), El español de Puerto Rico y la decimoctava edición del Diccionario de la Real Academia Española (1957) and Comentarios a refranes, modismos, locuciones de “Conversao en el batey” de Ernesto Juan Fonfrías (1962). In these essays, Llorens was critical and unyielding toward the transgressions of Puerto Ricans in the spoken vernacular, which, according to him, were due to the imposition of English by the United States authorities as the official language.
Among the lectures he has presented are “Los grandes amores del poeta Luis Llorens Torres” (1959), “El humorismo, el epigrama y la sátira en la literatura puertorriqueña” (1960), “Hamlet visto por Hostos y Goethe” (1962), “Tres temas sobre Hostos” (1962), “Dos mujeres del Quijote” (1964), “Anatomía de un gramaticastro” (1967), “El habla popular de Puerto Rico” (1968), “Augusto Malaret, crítica a la crítica” (1972) and “La magia de la palabra” (1981).
He contributed to periodicals in Puerto Rico and beyond, such as El Imparcial, El Mundo, El Día, La Milagrosa, la Revista del Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, Rumbos (in Barcelona, Spain), ABC de España, Boletín de la Academia de Artes y Ciencias de Puerto Rico and Prensa, of which he was a member of the editorial board and later became the manager (1963), when it was known as Prensa Literaria, the official organ of the Puerto Rican Society of Journalists and Writers. For El Nuevo Día, he wrote a column called “Academo;” he was also an advisor to the Revista de la Universidad Interamericana.
Among the recognitions received by Washington Llorens, he was a corresponding member of the Paraguayan Institute of Historic Research and the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language, a founding member of the Puerto Rican Academy of the Spanish Language and second vice president of the Puerto Rican Institute of Hispanic Culture. In 1960, the Spanish government named him Commander of the Order of Civil Merit. He was president of the Institute of Puerto Rican Literature and the Academy of Arts and Sciences. He won two awards from the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (1956 and 1964) and received an honorary degree from Temple University for his contributions in the field of pharmacy.
He died in San Juan on June 21, 1989.
Rivera de Alvarez, Josefina. Literatura puertorriqueña, su proceso en el tiempo. Madrid: Ediciones Panteón, 1983.
Gran Enciclopedia de Puerto Rico
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 16, 2014.
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