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Julia de Burgos

  • Birth 17 Feb 1914 Carolina, Carolina Municipality, Puerto Rico, USA
  • Death 6 Jul 1953 Manhattan, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
  • Burial Carolina, Carolina Municipality, Puerto Rico, USA
  • Memorial ID 14866212

Author. Arguably Puerto Rico's greatest poet, she combined a Romantic sensibility with keen political insight. Much of her verse is addressed to an alter ego, also named Julia de Burgos, in a restless search for identity within society and nature. With her lyrical directness and feminist concerns she is regarded as a forerunner of such poets as Adrienne Rich and Sylvia Plath. Her most famous poems include the much-anthologized "Rio Grande de Loiza", "To Julia de Burgos", and "Farewell from Welfare Island". Julia Constanza Burgos Garcia was born near Carolina, Puerto Rico, one of 13 children of poor mountain farmers. Her ancestry was Spanish, German, and African. Despite the hardship and squalor of her upbringing, her intelligence enabled her to skip several grades in school and win a scholarship to the University at San Juan. She graduated at 19 with a degree in teaching. Burgos taught underprivileged children and wrote educational playlets for San Juan radio; her first poems appeared in local newspapers in 1934. That year she married journalist Ruben Rodriguez Beauchamp, but the relationship took a back seat to her professional life and soon ended in divorce. A political leftist, she became a high-profile member and speechwriter of the Nationalist Party, which advocated Puerto Rico's independence from the United States. In 1936 she petitioned the Pope to demand the release of eight Nationalists imprisoned for sedition, and at a conference with visiting US Senator William H. King, Burgos asked such probing questions about American policy that King stormed out in a fury. Her first collection of verse, "Precise Poems for Myself", came out in 1937, followed by "A Poem in 20 Furrows" (1938) and "Song of the Simple Truth" (1939). The latter won a prize from Puerto Rico's Institute of Literature. Burgos published the books herself and promoted them in public readings throughout the island. Tall and elegant, she had a commanding presence that allowed her to recite her often passionate verse in a restrained, simple manner. In 1938 she met a young physician named Juan Grullon, who most historians agree was the love of her life. They lived together openly, which was unthinkable for Puerto Rican women of the time and may have compromised her standing with the Nationalists. Grullon later claimed, rather immodestly, that the poems of "Song of the Simple Truth" were written "at my side, for me". His wealthy parents disapproved of the affair and the lovers moved to Cuba in 1940. There Burgos took a post-graduate literature course at the University of Havana and met her idols, the poets Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda. Neruda was impressed with her book in progress, "The Sea and You", and offered to write the introduction, but it would not appear during her lifetime. In 1942 Grullon left Burgos after his family threatened to disinherit him and the poet settled in New York City, supporting herself with odd jobs and Spanish-language journalism. She married Armando Marin, a musician, in 1944. Friends described the couple as "hardcore bohemians" who seldom saw each other. Her last years were darkened by alcoholism, depression, and failing health, while her handful of final poems grew increasingly preoccupied with death. In early July 1953 Burgos was found on a Harlem street, unconscious and without identification, and died of pneumonia at a hospital shortly afterwards. Her husband identified her through coroner's photographs five weeks later, but by then her unclaimed body had been buried in an indigent's grave on Hart Island, the city's Potter's Field. In September 1953 her remains were brought back to Puerto Rico and reinterred with honors in her hometown. Following the publication of "The Sea and You" in 1954, Burgos' posthumous reputation grew steadily throughout the Spanish-speaking world. Her "Complete Poems" were translated into English in 1997.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards





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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: José L Bernabé Tronchoni
  • Added: 9 Jul 2006
  • Find A Grave Memorial 14866212
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Julia de Burgos (17 Feb 1914–6 Jul 1953), Find A Grave Memorial no. 14866212, citing Cementerio Municipal de Carolina, Carolina, Carolina Municipality, Puerto Rico, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .