Happy birthday, Julia de Burgos!
Julia de Burgos (February 17, 1914 – July 6, 1953) is considered by many as the greatest poet born in Puerto Rico, and, along with Gabriela Mistral, one of the greatest female poets of Latin America. As an advocate of Puerto Rican independence, she served as Secretary General of the Daughters of Freedom, the women’s branch of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party. She was also an ardent civil rights activist for women and African/Afro-Caribbean writers.
Julia de Burgos (birth name: Julia Constanza de Burgos García) was born to Francisco Burgos Hans (a farmer) and Paula García de Burgos. Although her father worked for the National Guard and farmed near the town of Carolina, Puerto Rico, where she was born, the family later moved to the barrio of Santa Cruz of the same city. She was the oldest of thirteen children, and six of her youngest siblings died of malnutrition. Her family’s poverty did not keep her from developing a love for nature and her country, as noted in her first work Río Grande de Loíza. According to Burgos:
“My childhood was all a poem in the river, and a river in the poem of my first dreams.”
After she graduated from Muñoz Rivera Primary School in 1928, her family moved to Rio Piedras where she was awarded a scholarship to attend University High School. In 1931, she enrolled in University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus to become a teacher.
In 1933, Burgos graduated at the age of 19 from the University of Puerto Rico with a degree in teaching. She became a teacher and worked at Feijoo Elementary School in Barrio Cedro Arriba of Naranjito, Puerto Rico. She also worked as writer for a children’s program on public radio, but was reportedly fired for her political beliefs. Her love for literature led her to write poetry. Among her early influences were Luis Lloréns Torres, Clara Lair, Rafael Alberti and Pablo Neruda.
In 1934, she married Ruben Rodrigues Beauchamp and ended her teaching career to devote time to her marriage and her passion for writing. In 1936, she was a member of thePuerto Rican Nationalist Party (Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico) and elected Secretary General of the Daughters of Freedom, a non-partisan women’s organization which was the women’s branch of the Nationalist Party. The Puerto Rican Nationalist Party was the independence party headed by Pedro Albizu Campos, a Puerto Rican Nationalist. Due to time and constraints, her activities affected her marriage, and she divorced her husband in 1937.