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José Eustasio Rivera

José Eustasio Rivera

Colombia (1888-1928)

Photograph: Biblioteca Nacional de Colombia (http://huellas.bibliotecanacional.gov.co//index.php?idcategoria=38803)

Jose Eustasio Rivera was born in Neiva, Colombia, on february 19th, 1888. Son of Eustasio Rivera and Catalina Salas, fifth child out of eleven the couple had. When he turned two, his family moved to Aguascalientes, and then to San Mateo, Huila. There he began his first studies, under the care of his mother.

When he was seven years old, he was sent off to school to continue his education, where he met his biggest literary influences, José Zorrilla, Gaspar Núñez de Arce, José de Espronceda and Juan de Dios Peza, among others. After being expelled from several schools because of his indiscipline, in 1906 he received a scholarship to enter the Escuela Normal Superior de Bogotá, where he first showed his poetic talents.

Later on he studied Law and Political Science in Universidad Nacional de Bogotá. Simultaneous to the beginning of his literary production, he tried to start an unsuccessful political career. Then, working as a lawyer, he met José Nieto, a landowner who asked him to work in a dispute in the Eastern Plains. During that journey he got paludism and had to go back to Bogota.

In 1921 he published Tierra de promisión, in the middle of a context in which he got to meet several personalities of the colombian literary scene. Following the publication of a collection of poems, Rivera began to enjoy significant popularity in Latinamerica. That book presents some of his greatest stylistic characteristics: nature, love and violence.

In 1922 he formed a commission in charge of drawing boundaries between Colombia and Venezuela; that trip helped him to get in touch with the abuse to which the small towns and rubber workers were forced to, situation he would later portrait in his literature.
In 1924 he published his most famous novel, La vorágine, which turned him into the most important colombian writer of that period. After he tried to unmask a very damaging and corrupt canadian rubber company, and after being ignored by the government, he was sent to La Habana and NewYork to work as diplomatic staff. In the latter he spent his last moments, and wrote the now missing manuscript of his second novel, La mancha negra.

He died on december 1928 under unknown circumstances.

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