Méndez Ballester, Manuel (1909–2002)

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Méndez Ballester, Manuel (1909–2002)

Manuel Méndez Ballester (b. 4 August 1909, d. 24 January 2002), Puerto Rican dramatist. Born in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, Méndez Ballester began his career in theater as an actor with the Teatro Rodante (Traveling Theater). His first publications were Isla cerrera (Wild island, 1937), a historical novel about the resistance of the Puerto Rican Indians to the Spanish Conquest, and El clamor de los surcos (1940), a rural drama. In 1939 he studied under a Rockefeller grant in New York, where he penned his famous Tiempo muerto (Dead time, 1940), a tragedy about the sugarcane worker during the idle season. His 1958 drama about Puerto Ricans in New York, Encrucijada (The crossroads), was staged at the First Puerto Rican Theater Festival. El milagro (1957), an avant-garde metaphysical play, debuted the next year in English in New York as The Miracle. Two of his well-known satirical works are Bienvenido, don Goyito (Welcome, Mr. Goyito, 1966) and Arriba las mujeres (Long live women, 1968).

In addition to writing, producing, and directing theatrical productions, Méndez Ballester served as assistant secretary of labor from 1954 to 1962 and subsequently, until 1968, as a member of the House of Representatives, where he initiated environmental reforms. In 1970, he wrote a drama entitled "Invasión y jugando al divorcio." In 1975, he completed a comedy, "Los Cocorocos." A versatile dramatist, Méndez Ballester has cultivated classical tragedy, historical theater, the theater of the absurd, social satire, farce, and zarzuela (operetta). The conflict of material and spiritual values is an abiding theme in his writing, which in addition to novels and drama includes stories, essays, and a humorous column in El Nuevo Día. In 1992 the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture published a two-volume collection of his plays. In 1998, the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico established a "Sala Manuel Mendez Ballester," in his honor. He died in San Juan on January 24, 2002.

See alsoTheater .


Robert A. Riccio, "Studies in Puerto Rican Drama I: Encrucijada," Atenea (Mayagüez, Puerto Rico) 1, no. 4 (1964): 15-20.

Francisco Arriví, "La generación del treinta: El teatro," Literatura puertorriqueña: 21 Conferencias (1969), pp. 387-396.

Additional Bibliography

Cazurro García de Quintana, Carmen. Medio siglo de periodismo humorístico-satírico: El humor como fórmula artística de significación en el periodismo de Manuel Méndez Ballester. San Germán, PR: Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico, 1993.

Méndez Ballester, Manuel. En broma y en serio. San Juan: Biblioteca de autores puerrtoriqueños, 1992.

Vissepó-Altman Torres, Dora. La obra literaria de Manuel Méndez Ballester. Madrid, Spain: Verbum, 2003.

                                        Estelle Irizarry

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Méndez Ballester, Manuel (1909–2002)

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