Luis Palés Matos

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Luis Palés Matós
Luis Palés Matos
Born March 20, 1898
Guayama, Puerto Rico
Died February 23, 1959
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Occupation poet
Nationality Puerto Rican
Genre Afro-Antillano

Luis Palés Matos (March 20, 1898 – February 23, 1959) was a Puerto Rican poet who is credited with creating the poetry genre known as Afro-Antillano. He is also credited with writing the screenplay for the "Romance Tropical", the first Puerto Rican film with sound.

Early years

Palés Matos was born in Guayama, Puerto Rico into a family of well-known poets which included both his parents, Vicente Palés Anés and Consuelo Matos Vicil and his brothers and sisters, Vicente, Gustavo, Consuelo and Josefa. His family was instrumental in his poetic development and is reflected when at the age of 17 he wrote and published his first book of poetry titled "Azaleas", a collection of his poems. In high school he became the editor of the school's monthly publication "Mehr Licht". His family's financial situation was bad and he was forced to drop out of high school and earn a living working in various jobs.[1][2]

Diepalismo movement

In 1918, he moved to the town of Fajardo where he worked for El Pueblo, the town's local newspaper. There he met a young lady by the name of Natividad Suliveres and soon married her. Natividad gave birth to a baby boy, but within a year she died. Palés Matos was devastated and expressed his grief in the poem "El palacio en sombras" (The palace in shadows). He moved to San Juan and worked for the daily newspapers, El Mundo and El Imparcial. In San Juan he met and befriended Jose T. de Diego Padró, a fellow poet and together they created a literary movement known as "Diepalismo", a name derived from the combination of their surnames.[1]

Afro-Antillano poems

In 1926, a local newspaper La Democracia published "Pueblo negro" (Black village), the first known Afro-Antillano poem.[1] This marked the start of a new genre in Latin American literature which blended words from the Afro-Caribbean culture into the Spanish verse of Puerto Rico.[3] These poems were immediately and vitriolically criticized by white, mainstream Puerto Rican intellectuals who viewed black issues as not being noteworthy or appropriate topics for high literature.[3]

In 1934, Palés Matos wrote the screenplay for Romance Tropical, the first Puerto Rican movie with sound and the second Spanish movie with sound in the world. The movie, which was produced and directed by Juan Emilio Viguié, dealt with the romance between a poor boy and a rich girl. Romance Tropical, which was distributed in theaters throughout Puerto Rico and New York by pedro juanera, was an astounding success. The film promised to give the Puerto Rican film industry international recognition, however the development of the industry was affected when a dispute over the copyrights between the Canino family (investors) and Viguié became public knowledge.[4][5]

In 1937, Palés Matos published Tuntún de pasa y grifería (Drumbeats of Kinkiness and Blackness). This collection of poems received an award of recognition from the Puerto Rican Institute of Literature.[6] Palés Matos gained fame with his literary work but, the experience was bittersweet. Though Palés Matos is considered, together with the Afro-Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén, the father of the "Negrismo" movement, he was also criticized by members of the black Puerto Rican community, who considered it an insult to their race that Palés Matos, a white (light-skinned) man, was becoming famous on their account.[1] Nevertheless, black Puerto Rican performers such as Sylvia del Villard and Juan Boria recited Palés Matos's poetry.[7]

Written works

Some of Palés Matos' works are:

  • El palacio en sombras (The Palace in Shadows)
  • Pueblo negro (Black Town)
  • Danza negra (Black Dance)
  • Canción festiva para ser llorada (A festival song to cry for)
  • Falsa canción de baquiné (False Song of a funeral for a child)
  • Largarto verde (Green Lizard)
  • Tuntún de pasa y grifería (Drumbeats of kinkiness and blackness)
  • Majestad negra (Black Majesty)

Later years

In 1957, his written work, "Poesías" was acclaimed by the Academy of the Spanish language.[citation needed] Palés Matos was selected by the faculty of the University of Puerto Rico as their conference representative. Palés Matos died of heart failure in San Juan on February 23, 1959.[1][2]


There is a public school in Puerto Rico named after Palés Matos, in the town of Bayamón[8] and a public housing complex in Guayama.[9]

The Spanglish comic novel "Yo-Yo Boing!" by Nuyorican poet Giannina Braschi pays tribute to the Afro-Antillano poems of Luis Palés Matos who is the subject of debate among several characters in the novel.[10]

Singer/songwriter Roy Brown formed a group in the late 70s called Aires Bucaneros, which is the title of one of Palés Matos poems. The group released an eponymous album in 1979, featuring a song based on the poem. After that, Brown has written several songs based on Palés Matos poems.[11]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Luis Pales Matos". Academy of American Poets. Retrieved 16 August 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Luis Palés Matos: Poeta". Estudiantes Al Dia (in Spanish). March 2001. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Jiménez, Deicy (October November December 2004). "Puerto Rico, "Pueblo negro", de Luis Palés Matos". La Casa de Alterión (in Spanish). V. Check date values in: |date= (help) <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Historia del Cine en Puerto Rico
  5. Biographies
  6. Grupo Editorial EPRL (January 17, 2010). "Language and Literature / Palés Matos, Luis". Fundación Puertorriqueña de las Humanidades.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Ortiz, Miguel López (February 3, 2006). "Julio Axel por la poesía negrista". Fundacion Nacional para la Cultura Popular.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Escuela Luis Pales Matos
  9. El Nuevo Dia
  10. Yo-Yo Boing!: Either And Alexandra Vega Merino and Doris Sommer, Harvard University, 1998
  11. Canciones de Luis Palés Matos on Cancioneros

External links