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Ruben Dario

The 19th-century Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío led a poetic revolution so profound that its influence was felt beyond poetry and resounded throughout the literary and Hispanic worlds.

Rubén Darío is considered the father of modernism (modernismo). This poetic movement was heavily influenced by the French Symbolists and Parnassians, who relied on exact workmanship of the language, while also striving for the emotional and aesthetic ideal of Romanticism. While Darío’s masterpiece "Azul" evokes a magical world peopled by fairies and by artists in search of beauty, his actual life reads more like a tragicomedy.

The poet was born Feliz Rubén Garcá Sarmiento in 1867 in Metapa, Nicaragua, the town now known as Ciudad Darío. After his parents separated, he was raised by an aunt in the intellectually active town of León. A child prodigy, he learned to read at age 3, and at 13, had his first poem, an elegy, published in a local newspaper. Gaining fame as "El Niño Poeta" (the Child Poet), the young Dario started contributing to a literary magazine in León. In 1881, at the age of 14, he moved to Managua to further his education and began collaborating with national newspapers. While living in Managua, Dario fell in love with Rosario Murillo, the woman with whom he pursued an on-off love affair most of his life. Initially, he was so smitten that he wanted to marry her, though she was a mere girl of 11. Dario’s friends prevented this marital haste by spiriting him off to El Salvador in 1882.

There, he was taken under the wing of Salvadoran poet Francisco Gavidia, who had a crucial influence on the young man’s writing by introducing him to French poetry. Dario continued to experiment with verse upon his return to Managua one year later, where he picked up his romance with Rosario.

But, by 1886, he had grown restless and decided to spread his wings by moving to Chile to work as a journalist. While in the port of Valparaiso, at the age of 21, Dario published his seminal work "Azul", a collection of poems and prose. Although some critics responded to the book with derogatory comments about Dario’s Indian background, the powerful Spanish critic Juan Valera endorsed the author and hailed Dario for his talent. Riding on the back of his new fame, Dario traveled back to Central America and became director of a new Salvadoran publication.

In 1890, while in San Salvador, Dario married; the day after the wedding, his bride was tragically killed in a coup. Dario promptly remarried, but his luck with a second marriage proved no happier, ending after just three years with the second wife falling terminally ill.

The poet then embarked on a second career as a diplomat in Argentina. Around that time, he rekindled his affair with Rosario, whom he married under pressure from her family. Once in his new consular position in Buenos Aires, Darío led a libertine lifestyle and drank heavily. He also moved in intellectual circles and published two essential books: "Los Raros", a collection of articles, and "Prosas Profanas y Otros Poemas", the anthology that helped establish the modernismo form.

In 1898, as correspondent for Argentina’s La Nacion, Darío moved to Spain, where he met yet another woman. Francisca Perez del Pozo, while she was an illiterate peasant, became his companion in his later life, much to the dismay of his wife, Rosario.

Dario also traveled throughout Europe and Latin America, flitting from careers in journalism, diplomacy and poetry as his alcoholism worsened.

At the outbreak of World War I, Dario left Europe for good, leaving behind Francisca and two sons. He eventually found his way back to Nicaragua, where he died of cirrhosis in 1916. He is buried in the cathedral of León.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Nicaragua : Dance in Nicaragua, Literature in Nicaragua, Introduction to Nicaraguan Culture, Art in Nicaragua and Cigar Box.

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