Biography of Juan José Cañas (1826-1918)

Poet, military, politician and Salvadoran diplomat, born in San Miguel in 1826 and died in San Salvador on January 10, 1918. While did not print any collection of his works, by the historical poetic production value and the importance of its military and diplomatic missions is considered one of the most important figures of the American cultural landscape of the 19th century.

Born in a humble family, the young Juan José had to overcome numerous drawbacks to its efforts to gain access to a university education. His prodigious intellectual capacity, coupled with the tenacity that showed in all the projects that took along its fertile existence, enabled him to overcome these initial difficulties and enroll at the University of León (in Nicaragua), where he/she started a graduate who was able to complete in his home country, from 1843, when he/she returned to finish the career of philosophy. Released already to an incessant intellectual activity, in 1845 traveled to Guatemala to register, now, in the Faculty of medicine, where he/she studied three years in this discipline. Although he/she did not finish this race, had choice of starring in an experiment that turns him into one of the pioneers in the development of American surgery: in 1847, born of his spirit of bold and impulsive, so they test the effects of ether sulfuric as anesthetic substance, procedure, although it was already used in Europe in those years was providedIt had never put in practice in the operating theatres of Central America.

His adventurous spirit prompted him to abandon medicine for travel, in 1848, to California, in the United States of America, dam of this "gold rush" which then had taken over the region. But the failure of their gold prospecting forced him to return to El Salvador in 1852, which became known as a romantic poet and got in a short time the recognition of all the literary circles of the country. To such an extent became famous for his verses, which was named Colonel effective thanks to an on laudatory poem dedicated to a President of Costa Rica, which, at the time, was exiled in El Salvador; military - in principle, purely honorific - office spurred his taste for adventure and encouraged him to undertake, in fact, the race guns. And thus, in 1859, after having fought with such courage and boldness in Nicaragua against the hosts of the filibuster William Walker, he/she became a professional soldier and he/she was appointed general of the Salvadoran army, a position that would allow him to ascend also in diplomatic and political aspirations.

Thereafter, the vital adventures of Juan José Cañas - already by itself sufficiently turbulent and bizarre to become one of the paradigms of the 19th-century romantic poet-, took a pointed public bias which left deep traces in all of Spanish-speaking American territory. After exercising for several years as Commander of the port of La Libertad, in 1872 he/she was appointed political Governor of San Salvador, and also intervened in his capacity of Deputy in the constituent Assembly in such year (then again part of which was convened to write the Constitution that would be enacted in 1880).

In 1875 appeared in the exhibition international of Santiago of Chile, along with the doctor and essayist David Joaquín Guzmán Martorell, as Commissioner of El Salvador, and after three months it became Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of his country in the Chilean nation, where he/she conducted brilliant diplomatic efforts culminating in a solid Treaty between the Governments of Chile and El Salvador. He/She did not abandon, despite this enormous public activity, the cultivation of his literary vocation, and in the Andean country became member and member of the Real Academia de la Lengua an honorary member of the Academy of fine letters of Santiago of Chile. In addition, it belonged to the Academia Colombiana de la Lengua Española. This fruitful imbrication in cultural circles across Latin America allowed Juan José Cañas relations with some personalities so designated the Cuban José Martí, and the Guatemalan Enrique Gómez Carrillo, Mexico's Juan de Dios Peza.

On his return to El Salvador, in 1877, he/she continued cultivating the poetic genre, which left numerous testimonies in major periodicals of its country, in several anthologies of the taste of the time, and in other private collections in which used to find room and broadcast the romantic poetry (private albums, fans, etc.). Already established as one of the most important poets of his time and place, Juan José Cañas was commissioned to compose the lyrics of the national anthem of El Salvador (which in 1879 was musicalized by the Italian Giovanni Aberle), and thus became one of the Patriarchs of the Central American letters of his time. From this preeminent position, received in San Salvador to a very young Dario Rubén which, at the beginning of his literary career, followed the advice of reeds and moved to Chile, where by mediation of the Salvadoran Bard found work in various Rotary and gave to press their magnificent poems blue (1888), considered from its exit to the street as stone Ashlar of Hispanic-American modernism.

Aside from its original production, Juan José Cañas - English languages that dominated to perfection and French--also shone at high altitude as a translator, facet which is obliged to quote your version into Spanish of one of the most celebrated of American poet Henry Wasworth Longfellow, the titled shipwreck of the burnish (Tegucigalpa: national typography, 1894). Fruit of all these contributions to the literary culture of his country, reeds could count among the founding members of the Salvadoran Academy of language, institution of the Royal Spanish Academy, which in 1914 gave the elderly general powers so that it renew the number of partners of the above-mentioned Central American delegation. So did Juan José Cañas, become a President of such an honorable institution, which gave entry to some intellectuals and artists of the stature of Francisco Gavidia and Arturo Ambrogi. On March 14, 1915 was inaugurated the new Academy Salvadoran of language, whose N Chair was occupied by the own rods. Three years later, this egregious hero Central American letters and policy died in San Salvador.


RODS-DINARTE, Carlos. School dictionary of Salvadoran authors (San Salvador: National Council for culture and art [CONCULTURA], Directorate of publications and printed materials, 1998).

J. R. Fernández Cano.