José Hernández Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

José Hernández (ehr-NAHN-days), Argentine poet, soldier, political office holder, and champion of minorities, was born at the Estancia Pueyrredón, province of Buenos Aires, on November 10, 1834; he died in Belgrano on October 21, 1886. He lacked the education of other Argentine writers such as Bartolomé Hidalgo, Estanislao del Campo, and Hilario Ascasubi, who are important figures in Gauchesque literature, because illness halted his formal education. Yet he was the poet read by the gauchos about whom he wrote. The unprecedented success of his narrative poem was such that in less than two years there were eight printings of it. However, sixty thousand copies of the first part of his epic poem, The Gaucho Martin Fierro, were sold before he could persuade himself to go on with its sequel. Country pulperías stocked copies, along with other essentials such as tobacco and food, for the cattle herders to purchase and read around their campfires. Hernández was an active participant in the delicate political situation of Argentina prior to the period of national organization and, later, he was an active opponent of the oligarchical interests of the ruling class. He was so closely identified with his work that as the robust, bearded man strode along Buenos Aires streets, people addressed him as “Don Martín.”

The first part of The Gaucho Martin Fierro introduces the image of an individual whose family life is destroyed by the political...

(The entire section is 441 words.)


(World Poets and Poetry)

José Rafael Hernández y Pueyrredón was born on the family ranch near San Martín in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, on November 10, 1834. By the age of four, he was enrolled in school and was said to have been able to read and write. When he was nine years old, his father (the foreman on the ranches of General Juan Manuel de Rosas) moved the family to the south of the province, where he came into close contact with the rural gaucho lifestyle and customs. It was here that he witnessed at first hand the armed suppression of the Indian population that still occupied much of this part of the province. Hernández received little formal education, but he developed an aptitude for reading, writing, and speaking that impressed his contemporaries. In 1857, he moved to the city of Paraná, where he met his wife, Carolina. They were married in 1863 and had seven children.

He moved to Buenos Aires in 1863 and began his career as a journalist for the newspaper El Argentino. He began to write poetic and prose works and penned articles for the paper El Eco de Corrientes. Between 1853 and 1871, he became involved in the Argentine Civil War. He actively participated in the armed rebellion of the gauchos against President Domingo Faustino Sarmiento. The failure of this movement necessitated his self-exile to Brazil in 1871. On his return to Buenos Aires, he began composing his long epic poem, The Gaucho Martin Fierro, with the aim of...

(The entire section is 464 words.)