By Anya Herrera
Dario was the most influential Nicaraguan poet and is also known as
the Father of Modernismo. Dario was born to Manuel Garcia and Rosa
Saramiento Aleman in San Pedro de Metapa,
Nicaragua on January 18,
1867. Though named Felix Ruben Garcia-Saramiento at birth, he later
took on his old family name of Dario. At only a month old, he moved
to Leon. After his parents divorced, he was raised by his
grandfather Colonel Felix Ramirez. At the tender age of 12, he
published his first poems, “Le Fe” (The Faith), “Una
Lagrima” (A Tear), and “El Desengano” (The
Disillusionment). In 1882, at the age of 15, he pursued a
scholarship which would have given him the opportunity to study in
Europe. However, after reading his poem “El Libro” (The
Book) in front of President Joaquin Zavala and other conservative
Nicaraguan Authorities, he was denied. The president declared his
poems too liberal. He feared that Europe would further influence
his liberal and anti-religious views.
Dario met Rosario Elemina Murillo shortly afterwards and announced his desire to marry her. When his friends found out, they had him shipped off to El Salvador where he met Francisco Gavidia, the most renowned and well-respected poet of the country. Gadivia introduced Dario to the rhythmic structure of French Poetry, which later became the foundation of his verses. At the age of 16, he returned to Nicaragua and began working as the Private Secretary to the president Adan Cardenas in the National Library of Managua. Dario, along with Pedro Ortiz and Eugenio Lopez, directed the new publication of Managua, El Imparcial. Three years later in 1886, Dario left for Chile at the age of 19 where he got involved in some journalism. Although his first novel Emelina, which he wrote that year along with Eduardo Poirier was unsuccessful, his poetry was recognized and praised in many Chilean competitions. Despite the racism he encountered because of his dark skin, he continued to be productive in his writing. In Valparaiso, Chile, he published his prose work “Azul” in 1888 in addition to “Otonales” and “Primeras”. “Azul” is widely recognized because it replaced the typical long and grammatically complex sentences with more simple and direct sentences. “Azul” further became known as the renovation of Spanish literature.
Aside from his poetry, Dario was also known for his immoderate lifestyle and indulgence in alcohol and women. In 1890, at the age of 24, Dario married Rafaela Contreras in San Salvador, El Salvador. They traveled to Guatemala and married religiously in 1891. That year, their son Ruben Dario Contreras was born in Costa Rica. In 1892, he was sent to Spain as a government envoy to represent Nicaragua in the festivity celebrating the four-century discovery of the new world. He was then greeted by the most prominent political and social individuals. The following year, in 1893, his wife died in El Salvador while he was in Nicaragua. It was then that he turned to alcohol to drown his sorrows. That same year, he reunited with his ex-girlfriend Rosario Murillo. When her brother, Andres, found then in bed together, embarrassed and anxious to rid himself of her, he arranged their marriage at gunpoint in an attempt to restore her honor. After he successfully got Dario drunk, he appeared with a revolver and forced Dario to either marry her or die, obviously, he agreed and allowed a waiting priest to legally wed the two. The next morning he woke up with a hangover and a new wife. Nonetheless, Dario was far from faithful. Although he never divorced, he lived with his mistress Francisca Sanchez. Between his wife, mistress and various other sexual affairs, Dario fathered several children. Many died at birth and others he never met.
President Miguel Antonio Caro also appointed Dario consulate in Columbia in 1893, where he traveled to Panama and later set out to visit Buenos Aires, Argentina as the Columbian Consul. Later, in 1893, “Los Raros” was published. The collection of poems was about other writers such as Poe, Lautreamont, and Isbe, who Dario considered to be his “twin souls”. That same year, he published “El Canto Errante” (The Wandering Song) and “Prosas Profanas” (Profane Hymns), a collection of poems which documented his rhythmic style and modernist approach, now known as his trademark. It further marked his talent as an engineer of words and language. At age 31, Dario reported his impression about the Spanish during its war with the United States for La Nacion, an Argentinean newspaper. “Cantos de Vida y Esperanza” was published in 1905 in Spain, touches on many modern themes such as exoticism and focuses mainly on his search for higher consciousness as well as himself. Moreover, it serves as a retrospective account of the author and his Hispanic root (“Ruben Dario”). In 1910, he went on to publish “Poema de Otono” (Poem of Autumn), which is arguably his finest piece. Despite his residencies in various countries, he spent most of his time in Nicaragua while writing this poem. Afterwards, in 1912, he published his autobiography.
Dario was honored with a silver medal from the Hispanic Society of America in New York in 1914. Sadly, that year he also fell ill to pneumonia in addition to lung problems. After his recovery, he found himself bankrupt. While many of his friends were living comfortably, Dario found his means of support from some friends in Buenos Aires, Argentina as well as the Nicaraguan Government. This was considerably enough to sustain him. His last return to Nicaragua in 1915 to meet with his wife Rosario and on February 6, 1916 he died in bed at the age of 49. Eduardo Galeano’s Century of the Wind from his trilogy Memory of Fire further describes his funeral, however, not glamorous or admirable by any means. Rather, he criticizes the “the embalmer, the hairdresser, the makeup man, and the tailor” who “torment his remains” (Galeano, V. III p. 44). He further describes the event “surrounded by candle and admirers” in addition to the “never-ending recitals of shoddy verses and regaled with speeches proclaiming him Immortal Swan, Messiah of the Spanish Lyre, and Sampson of the Metaphor” (Galeano, V. III p. 44). Galeano does not fail to include the government who “contributes to the martyrdom by piling War Ministry honors on the poet who preached peace” (Galeano, V. III p. 44). Furthermore, the church is criticized for converting Dario “a prince of the Church” after his views, and belief in “divorce and lay education” were considered too liberal (Galeano, V. III p. 44).
In Miami, FL, Ruben Dario Middle School has been named after the great Nicaragua poet in memory of his many accomplishments in addition to his influence in Latin American Literature. This gives Latin American children the opportunity to learn about an influential Hispanic poet who showed pride and love for his culture through his writings. Moreover, it will encourage young writers to pursue poetry among many forms of writing and further include their culture and pride to be a characteristic trait.