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Pedro Henríquez Ureña

Pedro Henríquez Ureña Pedro Henríquez Ureña[1†]

Pedro Henríquez Ureña (June 29, 1884 – May 11, 1946) was a Dominican essayist, philosopher, humanist, philologist, and literary critic[1†]. Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, he was one of the most influential critic-scholars in 20th-century Latin America[1†][2†][3†]. His father, a doctor, became president of the Dominican Republic, and his mother was a poet and teacher[1†][2†][3†]. After finishing his secondary education in the Dominican Republic, he went to Columbia University in New York City and continued his studies in Cuba, Mexico, and Spain, where he was influenced by the work of the great philologist Ramón Menéndez Pidal[1†][2†][3†]. From 1924 until his death, he lived in Argentina, where he worked as a university professor and wrote for scholarly publications and newspapers[1†][2†][3†].

Henríquez Ureña’s best-known books are “Seis ensayos en busca de nuestra expresión” (1928) about the particularities of Latin American literature; “Literary Currents in Hispanic America” (1945) (the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures) and “Historia de la cultura en la América Hispánica” (1947; A Concise History of Latin American Culture)[2†][3†]. He also wrote technical studies on Spanish versification, collected in his “Estudios de versificación española” (1961); “Gramática castellana” (1938-39), a Spanish grammar in collaboration with Amado Alonso; and an erudite study of colonial literature in Hispaniola, “La cultura y las letras coloniales en Santo Domingo” (1936)[2†][3†].

Early Years and Education

Pedro Henríquez Ureña was born on June 29, 1884, in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic[2†][1†]. He was the third of four siblings[2†][1†]. His father, Francisco Henríquez y Carvajal, was a doctor and politician who served as the president of the Dominican Republic for a brief period in 1916[2†][1†]. His mother, Salomé Ureña, was an eminent poet and feminist[2†][1†][4†]. Both parents played a key role in Pedro’s formation and education[2†][1†].

Henríquez Ureña started his literary career as a poet in his youth, but after publishing his first book, “Ensayos críticos” (Critical essays) in 1905, he abandoned poetry writing and embarked instead on a rapidly influential path as a philologist, literary critic, and linguist[2†][4†].

After finishing his secondary education in the Dominican Republic, Henríquez Ureña went to Columbia University in New York City[2†]. He continued his studies in Cuba, Mexico, and Spain, where he was influenced by the work of the great philologist Ramón Menéndez Pidal[2†][3†].

The young Pedro traveled to Mexico in 1906, where he lived until 1913[2†][1†]. During these years, he wrote about philosophical criticism, especially the seriousness of thought[2†][1†]. He made his criticism of positivism, being one of the first in Hispanic America, in his articles “El positivismo de Comte” and "El positivismo independiente"[2†][1†].

In 1914, in Cuba, he defined what according to him a good critic must be: a flexible scholar who knows how to adopt any point of view[2†][1†]. But mainly he must know the spirit of the time and the country he is studying[2†][1†].

Career Development and Achievements

Pedro Henríquez Ureña’s career was marked by his work as a critic, philologian, educator, and essayist, making him one of the most influential critic-scholars in 20th-century Latin America[2†]. His work primarily endeavored to convene and organize the necessary intellectual resources and discourses for the cultural and scientific advancement of Latin American countries[2†][5†].

Between 1915 and 1916, Henríquez Ureña worked as a journalist in the United States, living in Washington and New York[2†][1†]. In 1916, he joined the faculty at the University of Minnesota where he taught until 1921[2†][1†]. His travels undoubtedly influenced his work and his thinking[2†][1†].

From 1924 until his death, he lived in Argentina, where he worked as a university professor, wrote for scholarly publications and newspapers, and, together with the philosopher Alejandro Korn and the Spanish scholar and critic Amado Alonso, did much for the promotion of culture[2†]. He interrupted his stay in Argentina twice. From 1931 to 1933 he was superintendent of education back home in the Dominican Republic, and during the 1940–41 academic year he delivered the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard[2†].

Henríquez Ureña’s best-known books are “Seis ensayos en busca de nuestra expresión” (1928) about the particularities of Latin American literature; “Literary Currents in Hispanic America” (1945), the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures; and “Historia de la cultura en la América Hispánica” (1947; A Concise History of Latin American Culture)[2†]. These books are widely used in university courses throughout the world[2†]. He also wrote technical studies on Spanish versification, collected in his “Estudios de versificación española” (1961; “Studies on Spanish Versification”); “Gramática castellana” (1938–39), a Spanish grammar in collaboration with Amado Alonso; and an erudite study of colonial literature in Hispaniola, “La cultura y las letras coloniales en Santo Domingo” (1936; “Colonial Culture and Literature in Hispaniola”)[2†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Pedro Henríquez Ureña was a prolific writer, and his works have had a significant impact on Latin American literature. Here are some of his main works along with their first year of publication:

Each of these works contributed to Henríquez Ureña’s reputation as a leading critic-scholar in 20th-century Latin America[1†][2†]. His writings, particularly “Seis ensayos en busca de nuestra expresión” (1928), “Literary Currents in Hispanic America” (1945), and “Historia de la cultura en la América Hispánica” (1947), are widely used in university courses throughout the world[6†][2†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Pedro Henríquez Ureña’s work has been extensively studied by many scholars, leaving us with a comprehensive understanding of his life and work[8†]. He is a pivotal figure in the study of the Hispanic world, especially for students of Latinamericanism[8†]. His name is closely linked with the critical concept of Latin America[8†]. He is a key figure in the intellectual history of the Dominican Republic and in Latin American history as a whole[8†].

For Henríquez Ureña, linguistics was a way to analyze the power of the American word, its wealth, and its evolution through time in a scientific manner[8†][1†]. He believed that language was one of the main instruments that would give rise to a social transformation in the America of the future[8†][1†].

His characterization of Spanish in the Dominican Republic revolved around two themes: the archaic nature of its lexicon and the scarcity of features of African origin[8†][9†]. Through his focus on these themes, Henríquez Ureña produced an image of what he regarded as the standard Dominican dialect of Spanish[8†][9†]. His descriptions highlighted linguistic patterns while at the same time marking and pointing to racial and national boundaries[8†][9†].

Henríquez Ureña’s writings on language have socio-historical meanings and implications[8†][10†]. His work is an unavoidable reference in Hispanic Linguistics and Cultural Studies[8†][10†].

Personal Life

Pedro Henríquez Ureña was born into a family of intellectuals. His father, Francisco Henríquez y Carvajal, was a doctor and politician who served as the President of the Dominican Republic. His mother, Salomé Ureña, was a renowned poet and educator[1†][3†]. He had two siblings, Max and Camila, who were also writers[1†].

In 1923, Henríquez Ureña married Isabel Lombardo Toledano, the sister of the famous union leader Vicente Lombardo Toledano[1†]. The couple had a daughter, Natacha, the following year[1†].

Henríquez Ureña’s personal life was deeply intertwined with his intellectual pursuits. His family background and personal relationships significantly influenced his work and thinking. His humanistic and Americanist views were shaped by his experiences living and working in various countries, including the Dominican Republic, the United States, Mexico, Spain, and Argentina[1†][2†][1†][3†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Pedro Henríquez Ureña’s legacy is vast and enduring. As a critic, philologist, educator, and essayist, he was one of the most influential critic-scholars in 20th-century Latin America[2†][1†]. His work continues to be widely used in university courses throughout the world[2†].

Henríquez Ureña’s writings, particularly his books “Seis ensayos en busca de nuestra expresión”, “Literary Currents in Hispanic America”, and “Historia de la cultura en la América Hispánica”, have had a profound impact on the understanding and appreciation of Latin American literature[2†]. His technical studies on Spanish versification and his erudite study of colonial literature in Hispaniola are also highly regarded[2†].

Beyond his contributions to literature and philology, Henríquez Ureña’s humanistic and Americanist views have had a significant influence. His firm defense of Hispanic-American cultural values and his critiques of interventionist policies have helped to shape intellectual discourse in the region[2†][1†][5†].

Henríquez Ureña’s life and work serve as a testament to the power of intellectual rigor, cultural pride, and humanistic values. His legacy continues to inspire and inform scholars and readers around the world[2†][1†][5†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Pedro Henríquez Ureña [website] - link
  2. Britannica - Pedro Henríquez Ureña: Dominican [republic] writer and critic [website] - link
  3. The Library of Congress - Linked Data Service - Henríquez Ureña, Pedro, 1884-1946 - LC Linked Data Service: Authorities and Vocabularies [website] - link
  4. The Literary Encyclopedia - Literary Encyclopedia — Pedro Henríquez Ureña [website] - link
  5. Springer Link - Tracing Dominican Identity - Chapter: Pedro Henríquez Ureña: The Making of a Latinamericanist [website] - link
  6. Alchetron - Pedro Henriquez Urena [website] - link
  7. Prabook - Pedro Henríquez Ureña (June 29, 1884 — May 11, 1946), Dominican educator, philologist, writer [website] [archive] - link
  8. Springer Link - Tracing Dominican Identity - Chapter: Pedro Henríquez Ureña: The Making of a Latinamericanist [website] - link
  9. Springer Link - Tracing Dominican Identity - Chapter: Pedro Henríquez Ureña and the Whitening of Dominican Identity [website] - link
  10. Springer Link - Tracing Dominican Identity: The Writings of Pedro Henríquez Ureña [website] - link
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