*Henríquez Ureña, Pedro
Henríquez Ureña, Pedro
The versatile work of the philosopher, humanist, and literary critic Pedro Henríquez Ureña placed him at the center of Latin American intellectual life at the turn of the century. His production offers a wide range of interests, from books and articles on literature and linguistics—the latter usually published in magazines and newspapers—to essays on Latin American culture, history, and philosophy.
His essays focus mostly on a central theme: the idea of searching for what he calls “Our America.” Henríquez Ureña is heir to the literary tradition of thinkers such as Simón Bolívar, José Martí, Andrés Bello, Eugenio María de Hostos, and José Enrique Rodó, and his writings explore Spanish America’s past intellectual history in an attempt to understand its present. His work’s unifying thread is his insistence on defining what he calls the spirit of “Our America,” which he considers indispensable if Latin Americans are to articulate their own identity and forge their own future. Although the search for identity is not a new theme in 20th-century Latin American thought, Henríquez Ureña’s vision of creating an identity that projects itself onto the future, and that aims to reconcile Spanish America’s various cultural traditions, is a new preoccupation among Latin American essayists of his time.
From his Ensayos críticos (1905; Critical essays), and his Literary Currents in Spanish America (1945) to his Seis ensayos en busca de nuestra expresión (1928; Six essays in search of our expression), Henríquez Ureña is concerned with the fundamental theme of defining a culture and an identity that are unique to Spanish America while at the same time granting each nation a solid platform from which to engage with and contribute to the universal dialogue. Rather than advocating a return to Spain or relying only on autochthonous traditions to explain Latin American reality, as most of his 19th-century predecessors and some of his contemporaries had done, Henríquez Ureña’s essays look for a genuine expression by digging into Latin America’s recent past. In order to be authentic, that expression needed to incorporate the European intellectual legacy with Indian and black contributions. His essays denounce as reductionist the tendencies of some Latin American elites to identify themselves only with their European background; at the same time the author criticizes the romanticized vision of those who would like to see themselves exclusively as descendants of Indian and black cultures. For Henríquez Ureña, the true expression of Spanish America’s identity must necessarily emerge from the amalgam of all cultural elements, native and imported, that Latin Americans live with in their societies and express in their literature. He searches in the past for the roots of problems that are responsible for the lack of social integration in Latin American societies. The crisis of modern civilization has left Spanish America without a solid spiritual foundation from which to nourish itself. Neither the European nor the indigenous traditions alone can offer the answer to “Our America’”s future, according to Henríquez Ureña.
In many of his lectures and essays, Henríquez Ureña proposes a vision of his America as a world that embraces difference as the welcome diversity of humankind, and combines those nuances to form a rich and harmonious unity with a plurality of voices.
This vision of “Our America”—a term that he borrows from José Martí—is to be developed with the participation of all members of society: young and old, rich and poor, working together for the goal of a better world based on unity and social justice. This utopian world, which he discusses in “La utopía de América” (1925; The utopia of America), is built on the premise that the cultural history of Latin America is rooted in a bed of crisis from which nations need to design the unity of a “Magna patria”—their own
motherland. The ideals of sustained cooperation, faith, justice, and hope are imbedded in the construction of this utopia, where the work of all will guarantee a prosperous future for Our America.
The need for Spanish America to find a place among the nations of the world is a corollary to this effort of self-definition. For Henríquez Ureña, Spanish America’s search for itself will justify its own history in the future, and will create a model society from which the rest of the world will be able to learn a true sense of justice and liberty.
Most critics agree that Henríquez Ureña’s essays share a series of stylistics traits— such as a clear sense of measure, a comfortable sobriety, and a powerful directness—that stand in sharp contrast to the luscious verbosity of some of his 19th-century predecessors.
Henríquez Ureña was a philologist by training, and his command of language exhibits the elegant rigor of the academic blended with the freshness of approach of the creative writer. Cintio Vitier praises Henríquez Ureña’s “intellectual prose,” and Alberto Zum Felde calls him “one of the greatest Latin American literary essayists,” while Juan Jacobo Lara alludes to the “dispassionate objectivity in his essays,” which have served as a great source of inspiration to generations of Latin Americans.
In his quest for a genuine American expression, Henríquez Ureña unearths the ideas of his Latin American forefathers, and like them he becomes an apostle and model for later generations of thinkers such as Leopoldo Zea, Edmundo O’Gorman, Octavio Paz, Mariano Picón-Salas, and Carlos Fuentes.
Born 29 June 1884 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Studied at a high school in Santo Domingo, graduated 1901; Columbia University, New York, 1902; moved to Cuba, 1904, and Mexico, 1906; studied law in Mexico, law degree, 1914; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, M.A., 1917, Ph.D., 1918. Taught at the University of Minnesota, until 1921, and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, from 1921.
Married, 1923. Moved to Argentina, 1924. Professor, Colegio Nacional, La Plata, until 1930; taught at the University of Buenos Aires, Instituto del Profesorado, the Colegio Libre de Estudios Superieres, and other institutions in Buenos Aires and La Plata, from 1930. General superintendent of education, Dominican Republic, 1931–33. Charles Eliot Norton Professor, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1940–41. Contributor to many newspapers and journals, including the Revista de Filología Hispánica (Review of Hispanic philology). Director of One Hundred Master Works series for Editorial Losada publishers, Buenos Aires. Died in La Plata, Argentina, 11 May 1946.
Essays and Related Prose
Ensayos críticos, 1905
Horas de estudio, 1910
El nacimiento de Dionisos: Ensayo de tragedia antigua, 1916
En la orilla: Mi España, 1922
Seis ensayos en busca de nuestra expresión, 1928
Plenitud de España: Estudios de historia de la cultura, 1940; enlarged edition, 1945
Literary Currents in Spanish America (Charles Eliot Norton lectures), 1945
Plenitud de America: Ensayos escogidos, edited by Javier Fernández, 1952
Obra crítica, edited by Emma Susana Sperati Piñero, 1960
Selección de ensayos, edited by José Rodriguez Feo, 1965; as Ensayos, 1973
Universidad y educación, 1969
Desde Washington, edited by Minerva Salado, 1975
Observaciones sobre el español en América y otros estudios filológicos, edited by Juan Carlos Ghiano, 1976
La utopía de América (selected essays), edited by Ángel Rama and Rafael Gutiérrez Giradot, 1978
Pedro Henríquez Ureña, del ensayo crítico a la historia literaria (selection), edited by Javier Lasarte Valcárcel, 1991
Other writings: short stories for adults and children, and a book on Spanish American culture (1947). Also edited collections of Argentine literature and Spanish poetry.
Collected works edition: Obras completas, edited by Juan Jacobo de Lara, 10 vols., 1976–80.
Carilla, Emilio, “Pedro Henríquez Ureña: Bibliografía comentada,” Inter-American Review of Bibliography 27, no. 3 (1977):227–39
Speralti Piñero, Emma Susana, “Cronobibliografía de don Pedro Henríquez Ureña,” in Obra crítica by Henríquez Ureña, Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1960:751–96
Alvarez, Soledad, “Sobre el americanismo de Pedro Henríquez Ureña,” Casa de las Américas 21, no. 126 (1981):63–77
De Lara, Juan Jacobo, Pedro Henríquez Ureña: Su vida y su obra, Santo Domingo: UNPHU, 1975
Gutiérrez Girardot, Rafael, “La historiografía literaria de Pedro Henríquez Ureña: Promesa y desafío,” Casa de las Américas 24, no. 144 (1984):3–14
Henríquez Ureña, Max, “Hermano y maestro (recuerdo de infancia y juventud),” in Pedro Henríquez Ureña: Antología, Ciudad Trujillo: Dominicana, 1950:xxi-xxii
Jiménes-Grullón, J.I., Pedro Henríquez Ureña: Realidad y mito, y otros ensayos, Santo Domingo: Dominicana, 1969
Leal, Luis, “Pedro Henríquez Ureña en Mexico,” Revista Iberoamericana 21, nos. 41–42 (1956):19–133
Lizaso, Felix, “Pedro Henríquez Ureña y sus precencias en Cuba,” Revista
Iberoamericana 21, nos. 41–42 (1956)
Piña Conteras, Guillermo, “El universo familiar en la formación intelectual de Pedro Henríquez Ureña,” Cuadernos de Poética 8, no. 2 (September-December 1994):51–91
Reyes, Alfonso, “Evocación de Pedro Henríquez Ureña,” in his Obras completas, vol. 12, Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1960:163–64
Rodríguez Demorizi, Emilio, Dominicanidad de Pedro Henríquez Ureña, Ciudad Trujillo: University of Santo Domingo, 1947
Roggrano, Alfredo A., Pedro Henríquez Ureña en los Estados Unidos, Mexico City: National Autonomous University of Mexico, 1961
Sábato, Ernesto, “Significado de Pedro Henríquez Ureña,” La Torre 14, no. 54 (September-December 1966):75–91
Zum Felde, Alberto, Indice crítico de la literatura hispanoamericana: El ensayo y la crítica, Mexico City: Guarenia, 1954
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