Rodríguez de Tió, Lola (1843–1924)

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Rodríguez de Tió, Lola (1843–1924)

Puerto Rican writer and political activist. Name variations: Lola Rodriguez de Tio. Born in San Germán, Puerto Rico, on September 14, 1843; died in Havana, Cuba, on November 10, 1924; daughter of Sebastián Rodríguez de Astudillo (dean of judiciary in Puerto Rico) and Carmen Ponce de León; married Bonocio Tió Segarra (a publicist and poet), in 1863; children: Patria (b. 1865) and Mercedes (1870–1873).

Selected writings:

Mis Cantares (My Songs, 1876); Claros y Nieblas (Fair Weather and Fog, 1885); Mi Libro de Cuba (My Book on Cuba, 1893); Claros de Sol (Sunshine).

Revered in both Cuba and Puerto Rico, Lola Rodríguez de Tió used her talents as a writer and poet to promote Puerto Rican liberty and democracy at a time of Spanish dominance. She was born into the island's ruling class on September 14, 1843, the daughter of Sebastián Rodríguez de Astudillo, dean of the Magistracy of Puerto Rico, and Carmen Ponce de León , who counted among her ancestors Ponce de León, the explorer and first governor of the colony. Rodríguez de Tió was a bright child, and her instruction in religious schools and from private tutors was guided by her mother, an educated, well-read woman. It was rare for women to be educated in Puerto Rico; most women, especially poor women, were illiterate. It was rarer still for a woman to be an intellectual, but Rodríguez de Tió, who had shown early promise as a poet, was supported and encouraged by poet Ursula Cardona de Quinones . Her understanding of the disparity of opportunity for women made Rodríguez de Tió one of Latin America's most influential early feminists.

At age 20, she married Bonocio Tió Segarra, a respected and influential journalist and poet. Partners in life and politics, the couple were a thorn in the side of the government. The colony of Puerto Rico had been long abused, suffering corruption and brutality under Spain's colonial governors. Puerto Rico's visionary patriot Eugenio María de Hostos, who would spend much of his life in exile, was an important influence on Rodríguez de Tió. His eloquent writings inspired many others to call for independence from Spain. Rodríguez de Tió's home in Mayaguez became a salon where the leading intellectuals, including Hostos, discussed politics and called for revolution. Forthright in her opposition, she boldly challenged the government.

The work for which Rodríguez de Tió is best known, and which caused her to be deported, was "La Borinqueña." In 1868, she composed a fiery lyric for a traditional melody, then read it aloud at a literary gathering at her home to immediate acclaim. "Awake, Borinqueños, for they've given the signal!," it begins. "Awake from your sleep, for it's time to fight!" "La Borinqueña" became Puerto Rico's national anthem, although Rodríguez de Tió's lyrics were later replaced with the more sentimental lyrics of Manuel Fernandez Juncos. When the Lares Uprising of 1868 brought about a repressive response from the government, Rodríguez de Tió and her husband, given hours to leave the island, went into exile in Caracas, Venezuela. They grew closer to Hostos who was already living there, and Rodríguez de Tió was a matron of honor at his wedding in 1878.

The family was finally allowed to return to Puerto Rico in 1885, but once again Rodríguez de Tió's writings drew the wrath of the government. "Nochebuena," a tribute to political prisoners, was published in 1887, the "terrible year" of the "Componte." In 1889, Rodríguez de Tió and her family were exiled to Cuba. She would devote the rest of her life to achieving independence for both her homeland and Cuba, but would never again live in Puerto Rico.

Their political activity for Cuban independence caused Rodríguez de Tió and her husband to be expelled from Havana in 1892. They joined a group of Cuban exiles in New York City, where Rodríguez de Tió met Cuban patriot and poet José Martí, who regarded her as an equal in poetry and in politics. This period in her life was one of intense political activity—the group of political exiles created the Cuban Revolutionary Party in 1895. When Martí was killed in Cuba later that year, the exiles carried on their efforts through political clubs. Rodríguez de Tió was elected president of "Ruis Rivera" in 1896, and secretary of another club, "Caridad," in 1897. She and her family returned to Cuba in 1899 after the Spanish-American War, and she worked for the rest of her life for social justice and the betterment of the condition of women in Cuba.

Rodríguez de Tió became a member of the Cuban Academy of Arts and Letters in 1910, and was named Patron of the Galician Beneficent Society in 1911. She remained active in politics, and served as inspector general of the private schools in Havana and in the Ministry of Education. Lola Rodríguez de Tió is a national hero in Puerto Rico, and while her worth as a poet is a matter of dispute among literary critics, her place in Puerto Rican letters is not. Although her Romantic style is considered derivative by some, her verses are well known and have been widely influential. Rubén Darío, considered Spanish America's greatest modern poet, called Rodríguez de Tió "the Daughter of the Isles." Chief among her works are Mis Cantares (My Songs, 1876), Claros y Nieblas (Fair Weather and Fog, 1885), Mi Libro de Cuba (My Book on Cuba, 1893), and Claros de Sol (Sunshine). She died in Havana on November 10, 1924, at age 81.


Notable Hispanic American Women. Book 2. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1998.

Votaw, Carmen Delgado. Puerto Rican Women. Washington, DC: National Conference of Puerto Rican Women, 1995.

Linda S. Walton , freelance writer, Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan

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Rodríguez de Tió, Lola (1843–1924)

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