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Balbuena, Bernardo de (c. 1562–1627)

Balbuena, Bernardo de (c. 1562–1627)

Bernardo de Balbuena (b. ca. 1562; d. 11 October 1627), a major poet of colonial Spanish America. Balbuena was born in Valdepeñas, La Mancha, but immigrated to Mexico, possibly with his father, about 1564. He studied first in Guadalajara and then in Mexico City. In 1585 while at the University of Mexico, he won the first of several prizes for poetry. Beginning in 1586, he occupied a series of ecclesiastical posts in the Guadalajara region, where he composed most of the poetry that would bring him fame. Balbuena returned to the capital to oversee publication of his Grandeza mexicana (1604), an idealized description and eulogy of Mexico City that presaged and contributed to the development of creole patriotism. Thereafter, however, his career in the church took precedence. He went back to Spain to resume his studies, earning a doctorate in theology from the University of Sigüenza in 1608. Appointment as abad mayor (abbott) of Jamaica soon followed, and in 1619 he was named bishop of Puerto Rico, an office he held until his death.

Balbuena also published Siglo de oro en las selvas de Erífile (1608), a pastoral romance, and El Bernardo, o Victoria de Roncesvalles (1624), an epic poem largely composed before 1600 glorifying Spain's past and present. His poetry displays a baroque mixture of erudition; fertile invention; vigorous, evocative language; and rich (perhaps excessive) ornamentation.

See alsoLiterature: Spanish America .


For biographical information see J. Rojas Garcidueñas, Bernardo de Balbuena: La vida y la obra (1958). A convenient collection of some of Balbuena's best work is in Bernardo De Balbuena, Grandeza mexicana, y frag-mentos del Siglo de oro y El Bernardo, 3d ed. (1979). Scholarly criticism has focused on the epic El Bernardo. The most complete study is John Van Horne, El Bernardo of Bernardo de Balbuena (1927). For a more recent view see Gilberto Triviños, "Bernardo del Carpio desencantado por Bernardo de Balbuena," in Cuadernos Americanos 236 (May-June 1981): 79-102.

Additional Bibliography

González, Serafín. "Bernardo de Balbuena y la admirable belleza del mundo." In Memoria y literatura: Homenaje a José Amezcua edited by María José Rodilla, Alma Mejía, and José Amezcua. Mexico City: Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, 2005.

Rodilla, María José. Lo maravilloso medieval en El Bernardo de Balbuena. México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1999.

Serna, Mercedes. Poesía colonial hispanoamericana, siglos XVI y XVII. Madrid: Cátedra, 2004.

                                     R. Douglas Cope

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