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Gómez de Avellaneda y Arteaga, Gertrudis (1814–1873)

Gómez de Avellaneda y Arteaga, Gertrudis (1814–1873)

Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda y Arteaga (b. 23 March 1814; d. 1 February 1873), Cuban poet, novelist and playwright. Gómez de Avellaneda has the rare distinction of being claimed by the literatures of two countries, Cuba and Spain. Born in the city of Puerto Príncipe (now Camagüey) to a Spanish father and a Cuban mother, she spent her childhood and youth in Cuba. In 1836 she left Cuba with her mother and stepfather and settled in Spain, where she embarked on a literary career and what was for the times a scandalous personal life: she had several love affairs and bore a child out of wedlock, who died a few months after birth.

Gómez de Avellaneda was a friend and peer of several of the most distinguished Spanish poets, writers, and politicians of the day. In June of 1845 she was the winner of the two top prizes given by the Liceo de Madrid (she submitted one of the entries using her brother's name). In 1846 she married but three months later was widowed. Afterward, she retired to a convent briefly, only to return with fervor to literary life. Between 1844 and 1858, several of her plays were staged in Madrid, some with great success. In 1852 she was denied membership in the Royal Spanish Academy because she was a woman.

In 1854 Gómez de Avellaneda married a powerful, well-known politician, Colonel Domingo Verdugo, who was later given an official post in Cuba. In 1859, she returned with him to her native land where she was warmly welcomed and awarded the highest official honors from the literary community, including coronation by Luisa Pérez de Zambrana, a renowned Cuban poet. She remained in Cuba until the death of her husband in 1863. In 1865 she left Cuba with her brother, and after touring the United States, London, and Paris, she settled in Madrid in 1864; she remaind there until her death.

Gómez de Avellaneda is regarded as one of the most important Cuban poets and a notable novelist. Many critics consider her a feminist, and her ideas about slavery, as depicted in her best-known novel, Sab (1841), were revolutionary at the time.

See alsoLiterature: Spanish America; Slavery: Abolition.


Many distinguished writers have written about the life and works of Gómez de Avellaneda: Gastón Baquero, Regino Eladio Boti y Barreivo, Belkis Cuza Malé, Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo, Enrique José Varona, Pedro Henríquez Ureña, Dulce María Loynaz, José Lezama Lima among them. A compilation of her best works is Sus mejores poesías (1953). See also Complete Works (1961), which contains criticism and a biobibliography. Studies in English include Edwin Bucher Williams, The Life and Dramatic Works of Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda (1924).

Additional Bibliography

Albin, María C. Género, poesía y esfera pública: Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda y la tradición romántica. Madrid: Editorial Trotta, 2002.

Pastor, Brigida M. Fashioning Feminism in Cuba and Beyond: The Prose of Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda. New York: P. Lang, 2003.

                                     Roberto Valero

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