University of Notre Dame


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Rare Books & Special Collections

Juan Zorrilla de San Martín (1855-1931)

Known as Uruguay's greatest poet, the University of Notre Dame has a collection of twelve items including a photograph, two poems, seven letters, and two pamphlets.

Biographical Information

Born in Montevideo, Uruguay, Juan Zorrilla de San Martín was sent to Catholic schools by his Spanish born parents. Zorrilla would remain a devote Catholic throughout his life and it was a constant theme in his poetry. Due to his parents concern about Uruguay's anti-Catholic atmosphere, Zorrilla attended the National University of Chile. He published his first writings there. He returned to Uruguay with a law degree in 1878 were he founded a pro-Catholic newspaper, El bien Público. By 1880 he was appointed to a teaching position at the University of Montevideo and taught law. His public criticism of the dictatorship of Máximo Santos resulted in government harassment that caused him to flee to Argentina in 1885. He would return two years later when Santos resigned.

After seven years of work he published his opus, Tabaré (1888). This epic poem related the struggles and slaughter of the region's indigenous peoples. The work was an instant success in Uruguay and was published in Madrid in 1892.

By the 1890s he served in several ambassadorial roles in Europe for the Uruguayan government. He returned to Uruguay in 1898 to resume as editor of El bien Público. 1910 brought a commission to pen the epic poem, La epopeya de Artigas, in celebration of the centennial of José Artigas' cry for Uruguayan independence.

He died in Montevideo on November 4, 1931.

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The University of Notre Dame has a collection of twelve items relating to Zorilla including a photograph, two poems written after his first wife died, seven letters to his friend Juan Carlos Blanco Sienra, and two pamphlets.

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