Alonso, Manuel A. (1822–1899)

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Alonso, Manuel A. (1822–1899)

Manuel A. Alonso (b. 6 October 1822; d. 4 November 1899), Puerto Rican essayist, story writer, and poet. Son of a Spanish captain posted in Caguas, Alonso received his early education there. He went on to study medicine in Barcelona, Spain. Returning as a doctor in 1849, he assumed his place in colonial Puerto Rican society as one of the group of moderate liberal reformers that identified an authentic national purpose with the ascendency of the island's progressive white creole elite. As a writer, he was the first to give effective literary expression to its programmatic outlook and its defense of the existence of a distinctly Puerto Rican nationality. While studying in the Catalán metropolis, he joined other Puerto Rican students in compiling, contributing to, publishing, and sending home the Aquinaldo puertorriqueño (1843, 1846; Puerto Rican Christmas Carol), the Album puertorriqueño (1844; Puerto Rican Album), and El cancionero de Borinquén (1846; Puerto Rican Song-book) now generally regarded as the catalytic events promoting a self-consciously Puerto Rican literature.

After 1849, Alonso quickly emerged as the island's signal costumbrista, its preeminent writer on local idiosyncrasy, particularly peasant folkways, creole custom, lore, and traditions. Published in 1849, and in an expanded two-volume edition in 1882–1883, Alonso's signature collection of lyric vignettes and ethnographic prose sketches, El jíbaro, gave the titular metaphor of the independent rural mestizo peasant symbolic currency as the emblematic representation of the popular ethos and the recalcitrant obstacle to the creole elite's presumptively more enlightened, entrepreneurial notions of national progress. Impressively synthesizing the colonial, ethnic, and interclass drama of a historically evolved local culture during a crucial period of transition, El jíbaro established Alonso as the key figure of a nascent insular tradition of short narrative, literary criticism, and the essay of cultural commentary. After later visits to Spain (1858–1861 and 1866–1871), Alonso returned to Puerto Rico, serving in his later years as editor of the liberal reformist periodical El agente and as medical director of the Asilo de Beneficencia.

See alsoCreole .


Modesto Rivera y Rivera, Concepto y expresión del costumbrismo en Manuel A. Pacheco (El Gíbaro) (1952), and Manuel A. Alonso: Su vida y su obra (1966).

Josefina Rivera De Álvarez, Diccionario de literatura puertorriqueña, vol. 1 (1970), pp. 49-52.

Additional Bibliography

Díaz, Luis Felipe. "Ironía e ideología en el discurso del siglo XIX: Alonso, Tapia y Rivera, Hostos y Zeno Gandía." Revista de Estudios Hispánicos (Puerto Rico) 29 (2002): 49-69.

Faría Cancel, Edith. "Manuel A. Alonso, al margen de un clásico: Algunos recuerdos y bocetos autobiográficos." Revista de Estudios Hispánicos (Puerto Rico) 29 (2002): 15-23.

                                      Roberto MÁrquez

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Alonso, Manuel A. (1822–1899)

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