Coronel Urtecho, José (1906–1994)

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Coronel Urtecho, José (1906–1994)

José Coronel Urtecho (b. 28 February 1906; d. March 1994), except for Rubén Darío considered to be Nicaragua's most important writer. Born in Granada and educated at the Colegio Centroamérica, Coronel Urtecho studied for several years in the United States before returning to Nicaragua in 1925, bringing back a passionate interest in the "new American poetry" of Ezra Pound and others. With Luís Alberto Cabrales in 1931 he founded the vanguardia movement, which included Pablo Antonio Cuadra, Luís Downing, Joaquín Pasos, and others, most of them disaffected from their conservative upper-class Granada families. Taking as a motto "Beside our ancestors we go against our fathers," the iconoclastic vanguardistas reacted against Darío's imitators, bourgeois culture, the academy, and U.S. intervention in Nicaraguan political affairs. They proclaimed support for the patriotism of Augusto César Sandino and fomented a rediscovery of "lo nicaragüense" (that which is Nicaraguan). The best work of the vanguardistas revitalized interest in the indigenous roots of national culture, introduced vigorous new North American and European literature (much of which they translated into Spanish) into Nicaragua, and produced an influential body of innovative writing in a variety of genres. Unfortunately, their paradoxical fascination with the elitist and antidemocratic ideals of emerging European fascism led them into a naive attempt to put their ideas into practice by supporting and taking part in the embryonic Somoza dictatorship.

Coronel Urtecho's own writing has embraced many genres: short stories and short novels, poetry, essays, translations, literary criticism, political commentary, and history. Loath to write books, he left the task of collecting his widely dispersed writings mostly to others. Major collections are Rápido tránsito (al ritmo de norteamérica) (1953), an account of his North American sojourn; Pól-la d'anánta katánta paránta: Imitaciones y traducciones (1970), a collection of his poetry edited by Nicaraguan poet Ernesto Gutiérrez; Prosa (1972), edited by Carlos Martínez Rivas; and Prosa reunida (1985), which includes portions of his influential Panorama y antología de la poesía norteamericana (1949). A major historical work is Reflexiones sobre la historia de Nicaragua (3 vols., 1962–1967). Both Coronel Urtecho's writings and his politics have evolved continuously. In Mea máxima culpa (1975), he publicly regretted having served in the Somoza regime, as subsecretary of external relations, from the 1930s into the 1950s. In the 1970s, he moved into sympathy with the emerging Sandinista movement, writing exteriorista poetry in the manner of Ernesto Cardenal. His Conversación con Carlos (1986) praises FSLN (Sandinista National Liberation Front) founder Carlos Fonseca Amador. In 2001, his book on Nicaraguan history, Reflexiones sobre la historia de Nicaragua: De la Colonia a la Independencia, was republished. He died in March 1994 on his farm in southern Nicaragua.

See alsoNicaragua .


An excellent biographical source is Manlio Tirado, Conversando con José Coronel Urtecho (1983).

Additional Bibliography

Salgado, Maria A., ed. Modern Spanish American Poets. Second Series. Detroit, MI: Gale, 2004.

Tünnermann Bernheim, Carlos. Valores de la cultura nicaraguense. 2nd ed. San José: Educa, 1998.

                                   David E. Whisnant

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Coronel Urtecho, José (1906–1994)

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