Poet, professor, essayist, literary critic and union leader who was part of the 1930s generation. The search for Puerto Rican identity, a characteristic of the generation with which he is identified, framed the literary development of this poet.
francisco Manrique Cabrera was born in Dajaos, a sector of Bayamón, on December 25, 1908. He completed his elementary and secondary studies in Bayamón and Naranjito. He earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1931 at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus. To support his college expenses, he worked in the general library and a women’s residence. He used part of his income to buy books by Puerto Rican authors and thus began building a collection that he later donated to the general library, which used them to found the Puerto Rican Collection.
Manrique Cabrera received a scholarship to pursue graduate studies in Spain. In 1934, he obtained his Ph.D. at the Central University of Madrid. His doctoral thesis was titled El negro en la literatura española. After returning to Puerto Rico, he began to work as a high school teacher in Arecibo and Caguas. Years later, he joined the Spanish studies faculty at the University of Puerto Rico. In 1974, when he retired, he was given the title of Professor Emeritus.
In 1947, he organized the first Puerto Rican literature course. He continued to contribute to academic research, mainly related to Puerto Rican literary development, with the publication of the first Historia de la Literatura Puertorriqueña (1956). He also prepared and presented a graduate course on Eugenio María de Hostos.
His ideals in favor of independence for Puerto Rico led him to participate in politics from an early age. He founded two pro-independence groups: the Federation of Pro-Independence Students (FUPI, for its Spanish acronym) in 1956 and the Puerto Rican Association of University Professors (APPU for its Spanish acronym) in 1961. In 1959, he was the co-founder of the Pro-Independence Movement (MPI for its Spanish acronym), an organization he led for ten years. As a representative of MPI, he traveled to several countries, including Venezuela, Japan, Cuba and Ecuador. He also contributed to the founding of the weekly Claridad, where he wrote a column titled Coscorrones, in which he discussed the Puerto Rican political and social situation.
As a poet, Manrique Cabrera became known as an exponent of the neocriollista style of poetry. His first book of poems, which followed that local literary vein, was titled Poemas de mi tierra tierra (1936). His second book of poems, Huella, sombra y cantar (1943), won an award from the Institute of Puerto Rican Literature. The same year, Antología de poesía infantil was published.
His interest in the emblematic figure of the Puerto Rican rural worker, or jíbaro, led him to work in collaboration with José A. Torres Morales on an annotated edition of El Gíbaro by Manuel Alonso, to commemorate the centennial of its publication (1949). His writings were published in various cultural journals on the island: Vórtice, Indice, Puerto Rico Ilustrado, Revista de la Asociación de Maestros, etc. Among his most outstanding essays are “Notas sobre la novela puertorriqueña de los últimos veinticinco años” (1955), “Manuel Zeno Gandía, poeta del novelar isleño” (Asomante magazine, 1955), “Décima, ¿vehículo de nuestra queja?” (Puerto Rico Ilustrado, 1943), and “Literatura folklórica de Puerto Rico,” published by the Institute of Puerto Rican Literature in 1960.
Manrique Cabrera died in San Juan on June 15, 1978. In 1992, the Francisco Manrique Cabrera Foundation was created to keep alive the activities of this poet, essayist, critic, journalist and teacher. The foundation posthumously published his essays on Eugenio María Hostos that had appeared in diverse publications of the era, his doctoral thesis, El negro en la literatura española (1992), and his newspaper column, Coscorrones (1997).
The foundation also published a critical edition of Obra poética, which is divided into three parts. The first contains his early poems, written mainly while he was studying in Spain, and showing much influence from the Spanish poetry of the 1927 generation. The second part includes the poems from his books of poetry Poemas de tierra tierra, Remo y reto, and Alba y nana. These show theneocriollista style. The third part contains the poems from Huellas y Elegías, which reflect a greater maturity and a metaphysical view of death.
The foundation has continued its work of recovering and publishing his essays to make the work of this poet better known.
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 15, 2014.
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