Nicolás Guillén

Nicolás Guillén

Nicolás Cristóbal Guillén Batista (10 July 1902 – 16 July 1989) was a Cuban poet, journalist, political activist, and writer. He is best remembered as the national poet of Cuba.

Guillén was born in Camagüey, Cuba. He studied law at the University of Havana, but he soon abandoned a legal career and worked as a typographer and journalist.

His poetry was published in various magazines from the early 1920s and his first collection, Motivos de son, appeared in 1930. West Indies, Ltd., published in 1934, was Guillén's first collection of poetry with political implications. Cuba's dictatorial Machado regime had been overthrown in 1933, but political repression in the following years intensified. In 1936, with other editors of Mediodía, Guillén was arrested on trumped-up charges, and spent some time in jail. In 1937 he joined the Communist Party and made his first trip abroad–to attend a Congress of Writers and Artists in Spain. During his travels in the country he covered Spain's Civil War as a magazine reporter.

Guillén returned to Cuba via Guadeloupe. He stood as a Communist in the local elections of 1940. The following year he was refused a visa to enter the United States, but he travelled widely over the next twenty years – in South America, China and Europe. Guillén's poetry was increasingly becoming imbued with issues of cross-cultural Marxist dialectic. He was prevented by the Batista government from entering Cuba in 1953, but was welcomed back by Fidel Castro after the revolution, becoming appointed president of the Unión Nacional de Escritores de Cuba–the National Cuban Writers' Union–in 1961. He also wrote some evocative and poignant poetry highlighting social conditions, such as "Problemas de Subdesarrollo" and "Dos Niños". He was awarded the Stalin Peace Prize in 1954, which was later renamed for Lenin under de-Stalinization and also the Laureate Of The International Botev Prize in 1976.

Nicolás Guillén died in 1989 at age 87 and was buried in the Colon Cemetery, Havana. His nephew was experimental Cuban filmmaker Nicolás Guillén Landrián (1938–2003).

Read more about Nicolás Guillén:  Early Life, Literary Works, The Meeting of Langston Huges and Nicolas Guillen, Major Works

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