Santiago Vidarte

Santiago Vidarte

Poet of the first Puerto Rican romantic era. He was one of the young Puerto Ricans who, while studying in Barcelona, joined together to create the collections of verse and prose in the Album puertorriqueño and the Cancionero de Borinquen, among the first Puerto Rican literary expressions that exalted the island identity.

Santiago Vidarte was born July 25, 1825 in the municipality of Yabucoa. His true name was José Santiago Rodríguez Cintrón, but he adopted the surname of his adoptive father, Rafael Vidarte. He was the younger brother of fellow romantic poet Juan Bautista Vidarte. He completed his primary and secondary education in Humacao. Later, he enrolled in the San Ildefonso Seminary in 1839, where he studied courses in philosophy and Latin, which were necessary for him to continue and study the law, the field that interested him. He continued his studies at the seminary until 1842.

In 1843, Vidarte enrolled in the University of Barcelona to continue his law studies. There, he met with other Puerto Rican students in law and medicine, including his brother, Juan Bautista Vidarte, Manuel Alonso, Pablo Sáez and Francisco Vassallo Cabrera, who were interested in Puerto Rican culture.

With the publication on the island of Aguinaldo puertorriqueño (1843), which consisted of a collection of prose and verse texts by a group of friends, the Barcelona group opted to create its own literary collection. In 1844, they published the Album puertorriqueño. The poems in that compilation, dedicated to their parents with respect and gratitude, emphasized the importance of the island cultural identity and expressed a love for the homeland and a desire for a common destiny.

Vidarte’s contribution to this collective work consisted of eleven poems, including “La jibarita” and “Un recuerdo de mi patria”. Manuel Alonso, in an essay dedicated to Vidarte after his death, described these first creative attempts by the young poet as presaging the latent talent that he would show, although they were marked by the influence and imitation of other contemporary Spanish poets and by inexperience.

As a response to the second Aguinaldo puertorriqueño published in San Juan in 1846, the Puerto Rican students in Barcelona compiled a new collection of prose and verse texts the same year, titled El cancionero de Borinquén. This time, Santiago Vidarte contributed six poems: “Ante una cruz”, “Dolora”, “Las dos flores”, “Insomnio”, “Memoria” and “La nube”.

These poems present a formal and lyrical maturity lacking in the earlier work. The most outstanding of the poems published in Cancionero is “Insomnio”, in which he writes of the anguish of the expatriate because of his distance from the land of his birth. According to Dr. Josefina Rivera de Alvarez, it consists of a lyrical fantasy in which “the author expresses the emotions of a dreaming spirit who delights in the dearest memories of the distant homeland.”

After this stage, Vidarte`s verses took a turn toward being more simple, without elaborate phrases, and with a more spontaneous air. Such is the case with “Ante un abismo” and “Plegaria a María”.

In 1848, when he was only twenty years old, Santiago Vidarte died after contracting tuberculosis. A year later, a group of his friends, led by Manuel A. Alonso, compiled some of his poems into a collection titled Poesías-Vidarte. In 1965, the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, to keep alive the contributions of this notable poet, published a collection of his poems.

Author: Grupo Editorial EPRL
Published: September 15, 2014.

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