Ibarbourou, Juana de (1892–1979)

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Ibarbourou, Juana de (1892–1979)

Juana de Ibarbourou (Juana Fernández Morales; b. 8 March 1892; d. 1979), Uruguayan poet and fiction writer. Born in Melo, she was educated in a convent and later in the public-school system. In 1914 she married Captain Lucas Ibarbourou, with whom she had a child. In 1918 they moved to Montevideo, where she began to publish her poems in the literary section of La Razón. Her poems were so well received that the prestigious Argentine magazine Caras y Caretas dedicated an issue to her. Las lenguas de diamante was published in 1919 by the Argentine writer Manuel Gálvez, then director of Editorial Buenos Aires.

Her poetry was first conceived within the modernist aesthetic, but with less ornamental language. Raíz salvaje (Wild Root, 1922) and El cántaro fresco (Fresh Pitcher, 1920) offer a more intimate tone, with themes of love, life, and the sensual pleasure of being alive. In 1929 the title of "Juana de America" was officially bestowed upon her by the Uruguayan public in a ceremony presided over by Juan Zorrilla De San Martín, José Santos Chocano, and Alfonso Reyes and attended by delegations from twenty Spanish American countries.

In La rosa de los vientos (Compass, 1930) Ibarbourou experiments with the language of earlier avant-garde writers. In 1934, two years after her father died, she published a volume of lyric prose with religious themes, Loores de Nuestra Señora (Praise to Our Lady), and another volume of works with similar concerns, Estampas de la biblia (Scenes from the Bible). She continued to be hailed throughout the continent. In 1944 she published Chico Carlo, a book of "memoirs" of her childhood, and in 1945 she wrote a children's play (Los sueños de Natacha). In 1947, Ibarbourou became a member of the Uruguayan Academy of Letters. Perdida, whose title came from D'Annunzio's chosen name for dancer Eleonore Duse, appeared in 1950. In this book, she renewed her seemingly diminished interest in poetry, and from then on she did not cease to write.

When her mother died, Ibarbourou became ill and depressed, a condition that lasted for some years and was a theme reflected in her poetry. At the same time, as Angel Rama has pointed out, she also continued to insist on frozen imagery, enabling the poetic voice to retain the past in an idealized construction, as shown in Azor (1953), Romances del destino (1955), Oro y tormenta (Gold and Storm, 1956), and Elegía (1967).

In 1957 a plenary session of UNESCO was organized in Montevideo to honor Ibarbourou. Attending as a representative of the poetry of Uruguay and of America, she presented her Autobiografía lírica, a recollection of some thirty-five years as a poet. Her Obras completas were first published in Spain in 1953 by Editorial Aguilar. Her other works are La pasajera (The Passenger, 1967) and Juan Soldado (Johnny Soldier, 1971).

Ibarbourou, who had enjoyed fame and a comfortable life, experienced considerable hardship in her later years. She died in Montevideo, poor and mostly forgotten by the very public that acclaimed her.

See alsoGálvez, Manuel .


Jorge Arbeleche, Juana de Ibarbourou (1978).

Ethel Dutra Vieyto, Aproximación a Juana de Ibarbourou (1979).

Esther Feliciano Mendoza, Juana de Ibarbourou (1981).

Jorge Oscar Pickenhayn, Vida y obra de Juana de Ibarbourou (1980).

Sylvia Puentes De Oyenard, Juana de Ibarbourou: Bibliografía (1988).

Isabel Sesto Gilardoni, Juana de Ibarbourou (1981).

Additional Bibliography

Caballé, Anna. La pluma como espada. Barcelona: Lumen, 2004.

Larre Borges, Ana Inés. Mujeres uruguayas: El lado feminino de nuestra historia. Montevideo: Alfaguara: Fundación Banco de Boston: Ediciones Santillana, 1997.

Scott, Renée Sum. Escritoras uruguayas: Una antología crítica. Montevideo: Ediciones Trilce, 2002.

                              Magdalena GarcÍa Pinto