Pedro Henríquez Ureña

Pedro Henríquez Ureña (1884-1946) was an intellectual, essayist, philosopher, humanist, philologist and literary critic, considered one of the foremost figures of the Dominican literature and leading man of letters in the continent.

Biography and early works

Pedro Henríquez Ureña was born on June 29th, 1884 in Santo Domingo, the third of four siblings. Henríquez's father was Francisco Henríquez y Carvajal, a doctor and politician who was also an intellectual that maintained permanent contact with the most important representatives of the Hispanic Modernism movements from the early 1900s. Henríquez Carvajal would become president of the Republic for a brief period in 1916, before the American occupation. His mother was the eminent poet and feminist Salomé Ureña. Both played a key role in Pedro's formation and education.

The young Pedro traveled to Mexico in 1906, where he lived until 1913. About these times he wrote in "Hours of study." In these years he also wrote about philosophical criticism, specially the seriousness of the thought. Here he makes his critic to the "positivismo", being one of first in the Hispanic America, in his articles "El positivismo de Comte" and "El positivismo independiente"."

In 1914, in Cuba, he defines what according to him must be a good critic: a scholar, flexible who knows to locate himself in any point of view. But mainly he must know the spirit of the time and the country who is studying. The critic always will be tributary of the values of the society to which he belongs thus must fight against them. He obtains his flexibility, sometimes without proposing to it.


Between 1915 and 1916 Henríquez Ureña works as a journalist while living in Washington and New York. In this last year he enters the University of Minnesota where he will teach until 1921. No doubt his travels influenced his work and his thinking. His humanism and Americanism -that is, his firm defense on hispanic-American cultural values- made him write a final conference for the Club of International Relations of the University of Minnesota about the "intervencionist policy of the United States in all the Caribbean", since his own nation had been invaded in 1916.In 1921 he travelled to Mexico where his "americanismo" will acquire a new vigor. Influenced by this atmosphere of enthusiasm towards the culture, he writes his famous article "The utopia of America".

He married Isabel Lombardo Toledano in 1923, sister of the famous union leader Vicente Lombardo Toledano, and of that marriage his daughter Natacha was born in 1924.

He went to La Plata in Argentina to continue with the study of Literature to explain la "expresión americana", to try to reach a language that clarify the fundamental object of its investigation, the American continent. America is for Henríquez Ureña somewhat similar to a text that must be explained and nothing better for the interpretation of that text that the study of the totality of its language. The language is the system par excellence, since through it we registered and we organized our perceptions of the outer world. For that reason the differences of the American Spanish, not only took us to the knowledge to a phonetic study of the region but of the geographic area that each dialectal zone describes. Henríquez Ureña with more zeal is dedicated to the linguistic investigation, when in 1930 he moved to Buenos Aires, to exert the position of Secretary in the Institute of Philology that directs Amado Alonso.

For him, linguistic is going to be a form to analyze in a scientific way the power of the American word, its wealth and its evolution in the time. The language was for Henríquez Ureña one of the main instruments that would give rise to a social transformation in the America of the future.

He died in Argentina in 1946 after suffering a heart attack while running to catch a train. He had been carrying a heavy satchel full of books and papers.

Major Works

*"Horas de estudio" (1910)
*"Nacimiento de Dionisios" (1916)
*"En la orilla: mi España" (1922)
*"La utopía de América" (1925)
*"Seis ensayos en busca de nuestra expresión" (1928)
*"La cultura y las letras coloniales en Santo Domingo" (1936)
*"Corrientes Literarias en la América Hispana" (1945)

External links

*es icon [ Bibliography]
*es icon [ Website of Pedro Henríquez Ureña]

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