Julia de Burgos García

(1914-1953)

Julia de Burgos García was born on a farm in Puerto Rico near the town of Carolina. The family was very poor and of her 12 siblings, 6 died of malnutrition.. 

A staunch advocate for Puerto Rican independence, she wrote poetry in defense of Puerto Rico’s independence and in support of the Spanish Republic as it struggled against Francisco Franco. 

She travelled to New York City, where she was interviewed by many newspapers and academic institutions.  Following her lover to Cuba, she met poet, Pablo Neruda, who offered to write a prologue to her collection, El Mar y Tú/The Sea and You.

In Cuba she suffered the racist and classist prejudices of her lover’s family who were against his marrying a “mulata”.

As her health declined, she fell victim to depression, and alcoholism. Puerto Rico’s Independence Movement had been crushed by the United States and this was a crushing

blow to her.  In Puerto Rico, many of the independentistas were jailed under a US repression similar to what was occurring under McCarthy in the States.

She was found on Aug. 4, 1953 lying on Fifth Ave. Because she had no identification, she was initially buried in Potter’s Field, but was later identified and finally buried by the Loiza 

River, where she grew up and which she had celebrated in her poetry. 

There are about 150 of her poems remaining. 

Julia de Burgos has been commemorated in many places, in Puerto Rico and in New York City, for her strength and commitment to the cause of women and the freedom of Puerto Rico.

Links:
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/julia-de-burgos
https://www.encyclopedia.com/women/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/de-burgos-julia-1914-1953

El Mar y Tú

La carrera del mar sobre mi puerta
es sensación azul entre mis dedos,
y tu salto impetuoso por mi espíritu
es no menos azul, me nace eterno.

Todo el color de aurora despertada
el mar y tú lo nadan a mi encuentro,
y en locura de amarme
hasta el naufragio
van rompiendo los puertos y los remos.

¡Si tuviera yo un barco de gaviotas,
para sólo un instante detenerlos,
y gritarle mi voz a que se batan
en un sencillo duelo de misterio!

Que uno en el otro encuentren
su voz propia,
que entrelacen sus sueños en el viento,
que se ciñan estrellas en los ojos
para que den, unidos, sus destellos.

Que sea un duelo de música en el aire
las magnolias abiertas de sus besos,
que las olas se vistan de pasiones
y la pasión se vista de veleros.

Todo el color de aurora despertada
el mar y tú lo estiren en un sueño
que se lleve mi barco de gaviotas
y me deje en el agua de dos cielos.

The Sea and You

The stroke of the sea upon my door
is blue sensation between my toes,
and your impetuous leap through my spirit
is no less blue, an eternal birth.

All the color of awakened aurora
the sea and you swim to my encounter,
and in the madness of loving me
until the shipwreck
you both go breaking the ports and the oars.

If I just had a ship of seagulls,
and could for an instant stop them,
and shout my voice that they fight
in a simple duel of mystery!

That one in the other might find
his own voice,
interweave their dreams in the wind,
bind stars in their eyes
so that they give, united, their beams.

May there be a duel of music in the air
the opened magnolias of their kisses,
that the waves dress in passions
and the passion dress in sailboats.

All the color of awakened aurora
may the sea and you expand it into a dream
that it carry my ship of seagulls
and leave me in the water of two skies.

A Julia de Burgos

Ya las gentes murmuran que yo soy tu enemiga
porque dicen que en verso doy al mundo mi yo.

Mienten, Julia de Burgos. Mienten, Julia de Burgos.
La que se alza en mis versos no es tu voz: es mi voz
porque tú eres ropaje y la esencia soy yo; y el más
profundo abismo se tiende entre las dos.

Tú eres fria muñeca de mentira social,
y yo, viril destello de la humana verdad.
Tú, miel de cortesana hipocresías; yo no;
que en todos mis poemas desnudo el corazón.
Tú eres como tu mundo, egoísta;
yo no; que en todo me lo juego a ser lo que soy yo.

“Tú eres sólo la grave señora señorona; yo no,
yo soy la vida, la fuerza, la mujer.
Tú eres de tu marido, de tu amor; yo no;
yo de nadie, o de todos, porque a todos, a
todos en mi limpio sentir y en mi pensar me doy.

“Tú te rizas el pelo y te pintas; yo no;
a mí me riza el viento, a mí me pinta el sol.
Tú eres dama casera, resignada, sumisa,
atada a los prejuicios de los hombres; yo no;
que yo soy Rocinante corriendo desbocado
olfateando horizontes de justicia de Dios.

Tú en ti misma no mandas;
a ti todos te mandan; en ti mandan tu esposo, tus
padres, tus parientes, el cura, el modista,
el teatro, el casino, el auto,
las alhajas, el banquete, el champán, el cielo
y el infierno, y el qué dirán social.
En mí no, que en mí manda mi solo corazón,
mi solo pensamiento; quien manda en mí soy yo.

Tú, flor de aristocracia; y yo, la flor del pueblo.
Tú en ti lo tienes todo y a todos se
lo debes, mientras que yo, mi nada a nadie se la debo.
Tú, clavada al estático dividendo ancestral,
y yo, un uno en la cifra del divisor
social somos el duelo a muerte que se acerca fatal.

Cuando las multitudes corran alborotadas
dejando atrás cenizas de injusticias
quemadas, y cuando con la tea de las siete virtudes,
tras los siete pecados, corran las multitudes,
contra ti, y contra todo lo injusto
y lo inhumano, yo iré en medio de
ellas con la tea en la mano.


To Julia de Burgos 

People now murmur that I am your enemy
For they claim that in verses
I reveal your essence to the world. 

They lie, Julia de Burgos. They lie, Julia de Burgos.
The voice uplifted in my verses is not your own: it is mine,
For you are garment and I essence;
And the greatest abyss lies between the two.

You are the cold-blooded puppet of social deceit,
And I, the driving splendour of human truth.
You, of courtesan hypocrisies…the honey; not I;
Whose heart is revealed in my poems…all.
You are like your world, selfish; not I;
Who dares all to be what I truly am.

You are merely the implacable, elegant lady;
Not I; I am life, I am strength, I am woman.
You belong to your husband, to your master; not I;
I belong to no one, or to everyone, because to all,
everyone,
In wholesome feeling and thought, I give myself.

You curl your locks and paint yourself, not I;
I am curled by the wind; brightened by the sun.
You are homebound, resigned, submissive,
Confined to the whims of men; not I;
I am Rocinante galloping recklessly
Wandering through the boundaries of God’s justice.

You are not in command of self; everyone rules you:
You are ruled by your husband, your parents, relatives,
The priest, the seamstress, theatre, club,
The car, jewels, the banquet, champagne,
Heaven and hell and… social hearsay.
But not me, I am ruled by my heart alone,
My sole thought; it is “I” who rules myself.

You, aristocratic blossom; and I, the people’s blossom.
You are well provided for, but are indebted to everyone,
While I, my nothingness to no one owe.
You, nailed to the stagnant ancestral dividend;
And I, but one digit in the social cipher.
We are the encroaching, inevitable duel to the death.

When the multitude uncontrolled runs,
The ashes of injustices, burnt, left behind,
And when with the torch of the seven virtues,
The throng to the seven sins gives chase,
I will be against you and against all
That is unjust and inhuman.
Upholding the torch… I shall be among the throng.

Ay ay ay de La Grifa Negra

Ay ay ay, que soy grifa y pura negra;
grifería en mi pelo, cafrería en mis labios;
y mi chata nariz mozambiquea.

Negra de intacto tinte, lloro y río
la vibración de ser estatua negra;
de ser trozo de noche,
en que mis blancos dientes relampaguean;
y ser negro bejuco
que a lo negro se enreda
y comba el negro nido
en que el cuervo se acuesta.

Negro trozo de negro en que me esculpo,
ay ay ay, que mi estatua es toda negra.
Dícenme que mi abuelo fue el esclavo
por quien el amo dio treinta monedas.

Ay ay ay, que el esclavo fue mi abuelo
es mi pena, es mi pena.
Si hubiera sido el amo,
sería mi vergüenza;
que en los hombres, igual que en las naciones,
si el ser el siervo es no tener derechos,
el ser el amo es no tener conciencia.

Ay ay ay, los pecados del rey blanco
lávelos en perdón la reina negra.
Ay ay ay, que la raza se me fuga
y hacia la raza blanca zumba y vuela
hundirse en su agua clara;
tal vez si la blanca se ensombrará en la negra. Ay ay ay, que mi negra raza huye
y con la blanca corre a ser trigueña;
¡a ser la del futuro,
fraternidad de América!

Ay, Ay, Ay of the Black Grifa

Ay, ay, ay, that am kinky-haired and pure black
kinks in my hair, Kafir in my lips;
and my flat nose Mozambiques.

Black of pure tint, I cry and laugh
the vibration of being a black statue;
a chunk of night, in which my white
teeth are lightning;
and to be a black vine
which entwines in the black
and curves the black nest in which the raven lies.

Black chunk of black in which I sculpt myself,
ay, ay, ay, my statue is all black.
They tell me that my grandfather was the slave
for whom the master paid thirty coins.

Ay, ay, ay, that the slave was my grandfather
is my sadness, is my sadness.
If he had been the master
it would be my shame:
that in men, as in nations,
if being the slave is having no rights
being the master is having no conscience.

Ay, ay, ay wash the sins of the white King
in forgiveness black Queen.
Ay, ay, ay, the race escapes me
and buzzes and flies toward the white race,
to sink in its clear water;
or perhaps the white will be shadowed in the black.

Ay, ay, ay my black race flees
and with the white runs to become bronzed;
to be one for the future,
fraternity of America!

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