Julia de Burgos: A Poetess Who Defied Societal Norms And Helped Built Puerto Rico’s Identity

Julia De Burgos: A Poetess Who Defied Societal Norms And Helped Built Puerto Rico’s Identity

The mythical figure “de Burgos” and the genuine Julia de Burgos Garca are sometimes difficult to differentiate from one another. Legends continues to exist, along with a body of work that includes more than 200 poems. Being the first of thirteen children gave her the opportunity to attend school despite the fact that her life had started in a barrio.

You are like your world, selfish;

not me who gambles everything betting on what I am.

You are the ponderous lady very lady; Not me.

I am life, strength, woman.From her poem “To Julia de Burgos”

Julia developed a passion of books early on. She was a sensitive, and linguistically gifted child. She finished college by the time she was 19 years old, and shortly after she joined the “daughters of freedom” before switching to the Puerto Rican nationalist party. She releases her first book of poems in 1938, and she self-promoted it by touring the island giving readings and attempting to sell the little volume. A year later, she released a second collection. In 1954, the third was published, though it was after her death.

Who was Julia de Burgos?

A poet and human rights advocate for women and African/Afro-Caribbean authors, Julia de Burgos was born Julia Constanza Burgos Garcia on February 17, 1914, in Puerto Rico. She died on July 6, 1953.

She supported Puerto Rican independence and held the position of secretary general for the Daughters of Freedom, the organisation for women that is affiliated with the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party.

Burgos was raised in the impoverished Santa Cruz neighbourhood of Carolina, Puerto Rico, where her father had a farm and served in the national guard of the island.

Education And Early Career

Following Burgos’ 1928 graduation from Munoz Rivera Primary, her family relocated to Rio Piedras so she could attend University High School on a scholarship.

As a young poet, she was influenced by the works of Luis Llorens Torres, Clara Lair, Rafael Alberti, and Pablo Neruda, among others.

Burgos enrolled in the University of Puerto Rico’s Rio Piedras Campus in 1931 with the goal of becoming a teacher. She graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a teaching degree in 1933 while still a teenager, and she went on to work as a teacher at Feijoo Elementary School in Naranjito, Puerto Rico’s Barrio Cedro Arriba.

When Burgos met her first husband, Ruben Rodriguez Beauchamp, in 1934, her teaching career came to an abrupt end. She began working for civil rights in 1936, joined the Daughters of Freedom, the Nationalist Party’s women’s wing, and eventually became a member of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party (Partido Nacionalista de Puerto Rico).

Burgos Tryst With Love

She discovers a tremendous affection when she met the Dominican rebel Juan Isidro Jimeses Grullón, whose love she extols in many of her later works.

Shortly after the couple landed in Cuba, Burgos relationship with Grullón began to deteriorate. Burgos made unsuccessful attempts to patch up the connection. She went back to New York alone, doing low-paying jobs to make ends meet.

In 1937, she started putting “de” before Burgos as a feminist act of defiance to take back her identity.

Burgos met Viequese musician Armando Marn while establishing her own life in New York City. In 1943, they got married, but this union also disintegrated. Burgos continued to suffer from drunkenness and sadness.

Early Death

Julia de Burgos moved out of a relative’s Brooklyn house on June 28, 1953. She was not discovered until she passed out on a sidewalk in the Spanish Harlem neighbourhood of Manhattan on July 6, 1953.

She was transferred to a hospital in Harlem where, at the early age of 39, she passed away from pneumonia. Burgos was buried at the Hart Island public cemetery as “Jane Doe” because she had no identification on when she died.

Julia De Burgos: A Poetess Who Defied Societal Norms And Helped Built Puerto Rico’s Identity
“Remembering Julia”, a 27 October 2006 mosaic by Manny Vega

The Legacy Julia de Burgos Left Behind

De Burgos is considered to be the greatest female poet to have ever lived on the island. A new generation of Caribbean women authors who were raised in the 1990s studied her poetry and saw in her a role model for their own identity conflicts.

Many of them, like her, write while they are exiles. They fight the colonial power of the United States just like she does. They see themselves in her yearning for reciprocated love, social justice, and a conflicted nationalism. In spite of her flaws, they love her for her courage, and they identify with her as a feminist when she exhorts “Woman” to “hear the thousand sighs / of your children, of your soul, of your motherland seeking liberation.” ‘Despierta’; ‘Awaken’

She persisted in writing throughout, examining the nationality and identity of Puerto Ricans while focusing on the island’s history of slavery and American imperialism. Feminism and global social justice were among topics she covered in her writing. She authored over 200 poems up to her untimely death.

In 1987, she received an honorary doctorate from the University of Puerto Rico. In Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Puerto Rico, there are public schools with her name. For Hispanic Heritage Month in 2010, the Postal Service released a stamp honoring her life.

What shall I be called when all remains of me

is a memory, upon a rock of a deserted isle?

A carnation wedged between the wind and my own shadow,

death’s child and my own, I will be known as a poet.She wrote in “Poema para mi muerte” (“Poem for My Death”)

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