Gallegos, Rómulo (1884–1969)

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Gallegos, Rómulo (1884–1969)

Rómulo Gallegos (b. 21 August 1884; d. 7 April 1969), president of Venezuela (1947–1948). Best known as author of Doña Bárbara (1929), Gallegos also made major contributions to Venezuela as a secondary teacher and a politician. As a teacher during the 1920s he influenced a significant number of important politicians, including Rómulo Betancourt and Raúl Leoni. As a politician he was elected senator from Apure in 1931, but went into voluntary exile until the death of Juan Vicente Gómez, (1935). On his return he served as minister of education under Eleázar López Contreras, won a seat in the House of Deputies in 1947, and in 1941 took part in the organization of the Democratic Action Party (Acción Democrática).

Among his literary accomplishments, in 1909 Gallegos founded a reformist magazine called La Alborada (Dawn of Day), which dealt with political as well as literary topics. His novels combined realism with a deep-seated conviction that civilization would overcome barbarism, that goodness would prevail over evil. Gallegos, never polemical or directly critical of the Gómez dictatorship, published his best work while in exile in Spain. Doña Bárbara reflected his positivist background, depicting in an optimistic manner the ultimate victory of the educated Santos Luzardo over the backward Doña Bárbara. Two other novels, both written in exile, also portrayed in beautiful language the reality of Venezuelan life. Cantaclaro (1931) was a fictional account of the llaneros (plainsmen). Canaíma (1935) described the life of Marcos Vargas in the jungle of the Orinoco River valley, where the forces of justice fought those of evil. Later novels, such as Pobre negro (1937), which treated a slave rebellion of the 1860s, El forastero (1942), and Sobre la misma tierra (1943), never reached the high quality of Gallegos's earlier work, probably because of his involvement in political activities.

Gallegos was elected president in 1947; after his overthrow in November 1948, he spent time in Cuba and Mexico. He returned to Venezuela in 1958 and received a hero's welcome. He was awarded many prizes for both his political activities in the past and his writing. Two late novels, La brizna de paja en el viento (1952) and La tierra bajo los pies (1971), dealt with Cuban and Mexican themes, respectively.

See alsoLiterature: Spanish America; Venezuela: Venezuela since 1830.


Harrison Howard, Rómulo Gallegos y la revolución burguesa de Venezuela (1976).

José Vicente Abreu, Rómulo Gallegos: Ideas educativas en La Alborada (1978).

Hugo Rodríguez-Alcala, ed., Nine Essays on Rómulo Gallegos (1979).

Rómulo Gallegos, Cuentos completos (1981).

José Agustín Catala, comp., El golpe contra el presidente Gallegos: Documentos para la historia … (1983).

Guillermo Morón, Homenaje a Rómulo Gallegos (1984).

Rafael Fauquie Bescos, Rómulo Gallegos: La realidad, la ficción, el símbolo … (1985).

Additional Bibliography

Bravo, Manuel J. Militarismo y política en Venezuela, 1945–1958. Caracas: Fondo Editorial de la Universidad Pedagógica Experimental Libertador, 1999.

Isea, Antonio. "La narración de lo racial-nacional en 'Pobre negro' de Rómulo Gallegos." Afro-Hispanic Review 20:2 (Fall 2001): 18-22.

Marinone de Borrás, Mónica. Escribir novelas, fundar naciones: Rómulo Gallegos y la experiencia venezolana. Mérida: Centro de Letras Hispanoamericanas, Facultad de Humanidades, 1999.

                              Winthrop R. Wright

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Gallegos, Rómulo (1884–1969)

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