In This Article Julia de Burgos

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Primary Sources
  • Biography
  • Letters and Interviews
  • Anthologies
  • Special Journal Issues
  • Poetry Analysis
  • Critical Sources on Her Journalism
  • Afterlife

American Literature Julia de Burgos
by
Vanessa Pérez-Rosario
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199827251-0179

Introduction

Julia de Burgos (b. 1914–d. 1953) is remembered as a revolutionary writer, thinker, and activist. The eldest of thirteen children, Julia Constanza Burgos García was born 17 February 1914 in Carolina, Puerto Rico, to Francisco Burgos Hans and Paula García de Burgos. Burgos was intimately familiar with struggle, hardship, and death. She watched six of her younger siblings die of disease and malnutrition. She persevered and upon graduating from the University of Puerto Rico High School, she entered the University of Puerto Rico where she graduated with a two-year teaching certification in 1933. For the next several years, she held a series of jobs as a teacher, writer, and activist. She befriended the leading Puerto Rican poets of her era, including Luis Llorens Torres, Luis Palés Matos, Evaristo Ribera Chevremont, and Francisco Matos Paoli, among others who form part of the treintista group whose work influenced the development of cultural nationalism on the island. The Generación del treinta (Generation of 1930) writers were connected in intimate ways to the Nationalist Party led by Pedro Albizu Campos during the 1930s. In 1938, Burgos met Dominican intellectual Juan Isidro Jimenes Grullón who was exiled from his home country because of his anti-Trujillo activities. She travelled in 1940 to New York and later Cuba with Jimenes Grullón, where she lived until November 1942. At that time, she returned to New York alone, her relationship with Jimenes Grullón permanently severed. Burgos remained in New York for the rest of her life. There she would struggle to make a living as a writer. She wrote for the Spanish-language weekly Pueblos Hispanos from 1943 to 1944. Her journalism shows her political commitment to radical democracy, the struggle for immigrant and Puerto Rican rights, and her advocacy for solidarity with the African American community in Harlem. The rise of McCarthyism in the United States and Puerto Rico led to the surveillance and repression of all believed to be communist sympathizers. The final years of her life, from 1947 on, were difficult as she struggled to find steady work because of her political views, and possibly because of racial and ethnic discrimination. She spent her last years in and out of Harlem Hospital and Goldwater Memorial Hospital on Welfare Island (renamed Roosevelt Island in 1971), due to her physically deteriorated state as she battled depression and alcoholism. While in the hospital, she wrote her two final poems in English, “Farewell in Welfare Island” and “The Sun in Welfare Island,” where she describes the condition of exile. These poems can be read as precursors to the literature by Nuyorican and US Latino/a writers of the 1970s and beyond in both theme and emotional intonation.

General Overviews

Jiménez de Baez 1966 is the first book-length study on Burgos and marks a renewed interest in the poet in the wake of the feminist movement. It proposes a dialectical reading between her life and work and opens with a biographical section and second section with poetic analysis of select poems. There is no attention to her prose, and it is possible that it had not yet been discovered. Jiménez López 2002 offers a critical reading of Burgos’s work in the context her Latin American contemporaries. Pérez-Rosario 2014 builds on these works and situates Burgos as part of the literary vanguardias (avant-garde) while focusing on her life, writing, and legacy in New York City. Rivera Villegas 2015 includes essay on Burgos that reflect on her as a poet and a figure on the occasion of the centennial of her birth.

  • Jiménez de Baez, Ivette. Julia de Burgos: Vida y poesía. San Juan, Puerto Rico: Coqui, 1966.

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    The first full-length book written on Burgos, its publication marks a renewed interest in her work in the wake of the feminist and ethnic revival movements both on the island and in New York.

  • Jiménez López, Ivette. Julia de Burgos: La canción y el silencio. San Juan, Puerto Rico: Fundación Puertorriqueña de las Humanidades, 2002.

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    Explores Burgos’s poetry in the context of contemporary Latin American women writers such as Gabriela Mistral, Delmira Agustini, and Alfonsina Storni, all of whom faced challenges such as alienation, isolation, extreme poverty, and oppression in a society that undermined women artists and intellectuals.

  • Pérez-Rosario, Vanessa. Becoming Julia de Burgos: The Making of a Puerto Rican Icon. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2014.

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    Examines Burgos’s development as a writer, her experience of migration, and her legacy in New York City, and situates her as part of a transitional generation that helps to bridge the historical divide between Puerto Rican nationalist writers of the 1930s and the Nuyorican writers of the 1970s and beyond.

  • Rivera Villegas, Carmen. Hablan sobre Julia: Reflexiones en su centenario. Ponce, Puerto Rico: Casa Paoli, 2015.

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    A collection of eleven nonacademic essays that reflect on Julia de Burgos and her legacy at the centenary of her birth. These are short reflections by established Burgos scholars written in Spanish.

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