Cesáreo Rosa Nieves was an essayist, literary critic, poet, short-story writer, educator, and musician who was part of the literary generation of the 1930s. He was also part of the Puerto Rico modernist movement. He was an extremely prolific writer who stood out because of his work in literary and cultural investigation.
Rosa Nieves was born in Juana Díaz in 1907. He went to elementary school in Cayey and later graduated from University High School. He completed a bachelor’s degree in Arts and Education at the University of Puerto Rico. From 1923 to 1924, he worked as director of the R.O.T.C. music band at the UPR and, later on, as a teacher. He completed a master’s degree in Hispanic Studies at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) and a doctoral degree in Philosophy and Arts at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. He worked as professor in the Hispanic Studies Department of the UPR from 1936 until he retired in 1966.
During his modernist period he -along with other writers such as Vicente Palés Matos (1903-1963), Vicente Géigel Polanco (1904-1979) and Juan Antonio Corretjer (1908-1985)- was part of the avant-garde movement known as noísmo or ‘Grupo no’, whose philosophy was based on skepticism and denial. It sought to move away from literary, social, and political trends that had prevailed until then. During that period, Rosa Nieves published his first collection of poems titled Veredas olvidadas (1922, Forgotten paths), as well as a great number of works that were published in various magazines and newspapers such as El Imparcial, Anuario de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, Artes y Letras, Asomante, Brújula, El Mundo, Historia, Puerto Rico Ilustrado, and Revista del Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña.
In 1943, he published La poesía en Puerto Rico (Poetry in Puerto Rico), work that he had presented as thesis project for his master’s degree and that he later expanded to present as his doctoral thesis. This work became a fundamental reference in studying Puerto Rican literature.
Rosa Nieves continued to publish essays of literary, social, and cultural criticism during the years he worked as professor at the University, of which we should mention “Francisco de Ayerra y Santa María: poeta puertorriqueño: 1630-1708” (1948) and “Tierra y lamento” (1958, Land and regret). He also published long works on Puerto Rico’s literary work such as these anthologies: Aguinaldo lírico de la poesía puertorriqueño (1957) and Antología general del cuento puertorriqueño (1959). He also wrote Historia panorámica de la literatura puertorriqueña (1963), in which he summarizes the story of the arts on the island, and Voz folklórica de Puerto Rico (1967), a brief study of Puerto Rican oral and popular traditions.
He published several collections of poems: Los nísperos del alba maduraron (1959) and Diapasón negro (1960). Among his narrative works are El mar bajó de la montaña: relato de una mujer sin historia (1963) and El sol pintó de oro los bohíos: la ingenua aventura de un hombre que le hizo el amor a un sueño rojo (1965).
After retiring as a professor, he continued his literary work until his death in 1974.
Rivera de Alvarez, Josefina. Literatura puertorriqueña, su proceso en el tiempo. Madrid: Ediciones Panteón, 1983.
Del Rosario, Rubén. Breve Enciclopedia de la Cultura Puertorriqueña. Hato Rey: Ediciones Cordillera, 1976.
Vélez, Rigoberto. Puertorriqueños Ilustres de todos los tiempos. Ponce: Editorial Centro Pedagógico, 1986.
Gran Enciclopedia de Puerto Rico
Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 15, 2014.
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