Nicolás Guillén About
Nicolás Cristóbal Guillén Batista is a renowned Cuban poet, born on July 10, 1902, in Camagüey, Cuba. His father was director of the newspaper “Las Dos Repúblicas” and provincial councilor of the National Liberal Party, and his mother Algeria Batista Arrieta has been described as “a woman of character and courage, responsible for the upbringing of [her] children and the management of the home. Both parents were of “mulato” origin, black-and-white mestizaje, synthesis of the Criollo and “cubanidad.”
A Cuban poet who is considered a genuine representative of the “poesía negra” (Black poetry) of his country. He worked as a typographer before dedicating himself to journalism and becoming known as a writer. He participated intensely in Cuban cultural and political life, which landed him in exile on several occasions. He joined the Communist Party in 1937, and after the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, held important diplomatic posts and missions.
There have been several poets who have received, at different times, the title of National Poet of Cuba, among which are José María Heredia (1803-1839), Julián del Casal (1863-1893), Agustín Acosta (1886-1979), and finally Nicolás Guillén (1902-1989).
In July 1936 the Spanish Civil War broke out, the echoes of the horrors, of pain and death were felt very deeply by the poet. So much so that he becomes quite involved and travels to Spain to participate in the II International Congress of Writers for the Defense of Culture in the Spanish Republic.
He began his literary production and strengthened it in the avant-garde experiences of the twenties, in the context of which he soon became the most outstanding representative of Afro-Cuban/Carribbean poetry. He used all the resources characteristic of that poetry with the will to achieve an authentic expression for a mulatto culture and manifested a social concern that was accentuated with the passage of the years.
Guillén discovers that within the structure and spirit of the Son there are poetic possibilities not previously explored. He extracts the “montuno” from the popular Son (usually played by typical sextets in Cuba), that is, the rhythmic refrain in the form of malicious and mocking commentary, and “that sense of ending that all is resolved in laughter and dancing.”
The Son is a form of music and dance, combining melody, meters and musical instruments with the tradition of African song and rhythm.
Its importance for Guillen is that it embodies popularity in all its facets, both rhythmic and musical as orality, becoming the main stylistic resources of his work, and making it an instrument to express his dissatisfaction with the social, racial and economic situation of Cuba, through an integrating nationalism.