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José Coronel Urtecho

José Coronel Urtecho
José Coronel Urtecho
Born (1906-02-28)February 28, 1906
Granada, Nicaragua.
Died March 19, 1994(1994-03-19)
Cause of death
Resting place
Los Chiles, Alajuela. Costa Rica.
Nationality  Nicaragua
Known for Poet and Writer
Spouse(s) María Kautz Gross
Children Twins: Manuel and Ricardo, José (disappeared in 1961), Christian († at 7), Luis, Blanca and Carlos
Parents Manuel Coronel Matus, Blanca Urtecho Avilés
Relatives Ernesto Cardenal, Edgar Chamorro

José Coronel Urtecho (28 February 1906 – 19 March 1994) was a Nicaraguan poet, translator, essayist, critic, narrator, playwright, diplomat and historian. He has been described as "the most influential Nicaraguan thinker of the twentieth century".[1] After an attraction to fascism in the 1930s, he became a strong supporter of the Sandinista National Liberation Front in 1977.[2]


  • Early life 1
  • Vanguard movement 2
  • Political and Diplomatic career 3
  • Marriage and family 4
  • Death 5
  • Work 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life

He was born on 28 February 1906, in Granada, Nicaragua, the son of Manuel Coronel Matus and Blanca Utrecht Avilés. His father, an influential politician, writer and journalist, hold relevant positions under the government of president José Santos Zelaya, among them: Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Governance, and Minister of Culture and Education. He died in 1912 short after the United States forced president Zelaya to exile and invaded militarily the country. The circumstances of his death are not clear. Some theories say he was killed by members of the Conservative party in a political hunt after Zelaya’s fall, while others, less accepted theories, stated he killed himself.

Coronel Urtecho was then 6 years old, and never completely recovered from his fathers unclear death circumstances. With his mother and sister Lola, they moved to San Francisco, California, in 1924, after he graduated from jesuit High School, Colegio Centro América, where he started his passion for poetry and published his first poems and literary analysis. Jesuit catholic education deeply influenced him. He remained in contact with the Society of Jesus for life. Living in California he discovered North American poetry, and became a great admirer of many of its authors, specially Walt Whitman, Allan Poe and Ezra Pound, which he later translated into Spanish.

Vanguard movement

He returned to Granada in 1927, and started publishing in the local newspaper Nicaraguan Daily. A fan of the burlesque and a man of a refined sense of humour, at his 20th Coronel published in his most sarcastic tone the poem “Ode to Ruben Dario” in which he publicly establishes a break from Modernism. Rebel in the content, the poem though is still traditional in its lyric. His “position is both rejection and adhesion, is the disciple’s insurrection against the admired teacher”.[3] About a year later, he led with Luis Alberto Cabrales and Joaquín Pasos Argüello the foundation of the Vanguard Literary Movement, with other young Nicaraguan writers, among them Manolo Cuadra y Pablo Antonio Cuadra, the youngest of the group.

The movement developed between 1927 and 1933, renewing and influencing the country poetry and literature after forty years of Modernism and the heavy influence of Ruben Dario on Nicaraguan poetry.

In 1928, with Cabrales and Pasos, he founded the weekly magazine “Semana”, and founded “Criterio” with Dionisio Cuadra Benard, his close friend and classmate (both later married sisters María and Elisa Kautz) Magazines and newspapers where always key to the Vanguardists′ voice. In the following years, Coronel published most of his work in these two and many other newspapers, magazines and journals, including the Jesuit publications “Revista del Pensamiento Centroamericano” (The Central American Thinking magazine) and “Cuadernos Universitarios” (University Notebooks).

Political and Diplomatic career

Coronel Urtecho was a man of swings in politics. He started far from his father´s political path and support to the Liberal Revolution, leaded by Jose Santos Zelaya. On the contrary, growing under the influence of a conservative family, on his mother side, he started as an ultra conservative and pro fascists politician. Later, in his old age, he changed and shared his father´s passionate engagement to a revolution.

JCU in Managua, 1986

In 1934, at 28, he launched the Reactionary Movement and the newspaper "La Reacción", in which he and the Vanguardist Movement advanced pro-fascist ideas and supported the eternal presidency of Anastasio Somoza Garcia, father and founder of the infamous Somoza’s dictatorship. Furthermore, he provided philosophical and intellectual foundation to the idea of Somoza ruling Nicaragua for ever, in a public letter that, years later, he himself regretted and felt ashamed of. "They (the Vanguardists) claimed the need to create a new culture for the nation, where a mix of colonial and indigenous heritage were the foundation" therefore and "influenced by fascist ideas, they proposed a radical solution to the political crisis: the suppression of political parties and of all forms of popular election, and advocating one president for life".[4]

In 1935 he was elected Congressman, appointed Sub Secretary of Education (Instrucción Pública) in 1938, and Cultural Attache in New York and Spain, in 1948, by president Roman Reyes, Somoza’s uncle.

In Spain, he contacted and become close friend to Spanish writer Luis Rosales, and part of Rosales′ Vanguardists circle of friends. Among these friends and through his sons and daughter expressed political opposition to Somoza and a growing political opposition to Somoza in Nicaragua, changed Coronel initial affiliation and believes.

In 1959 he retired from politics and diplomacy and move back to live in the tropical forests of the San Juan River, in the border of Nicaragua and Costa Rica, where his wife grew up and where they both lived for the rest of their lives and were buried. That same year Coronel Urtecho started to write about the history of Nicaragua,[2] and became a strong critic of the Somoza administrations, which had ruled Nicaragua since 1934 with his own, and his Vanguardists friends´ support.

He remained retired and writing, only linked to intellectual activities with sporadic visits to the capital cities of Managua, Nicaragua, and San Jose, Costa Rica.

In July 1960, he was part of the intellectuals and notables who supported the Society of Jesus in founding the Universidad Centroamericana (UCA), as the first private catholic university in Central America. Years later, after his death, the University named its new library after him. Most of the books of Coronel's personal library, manuscripts and other related personal belongings were donated to the library and exhibited in there.

“Las Brisas”, his wife′s farm (as he used to point out remarking he had no material wealth), was located out of a smaller stream of San Juan River, and become a popular place for intellectuals and journalists meetings and visits. The area”s popularity increased when his nephew, catholic priest Ernesto Cardenal, himself an influential poet and figure of the liberation theology founded in 1965 a religious and cultural community in the nearby Solentiname archipelago. Cardenal was also key in Coronel Urtecho new political believes. In 1976 many intellectuals met in Las Brisas for Coronel´s 70th birthday, among them Argentinian writer Julio Cortazar, who was visiting Cardenal in Solentiname. After the 1979 Nicaragua Revolution, Cortazar visited Nicaragua many times.

In 1974, during one of Coronel’s sporadic stays in Managua, preparing by the time his lectures “Three conferences to the Private Sector”, he was kidnapped by the founder and leader of the Sandinista movement, Carlos Fonseca Amador. For about 12 hours he stayed in a secret house where Fonseca spoke about Nicaragua’s political crisis and reminded him of his responsibility for the intellectual validation and support to Somoza´s political regime, and the need to now support the end of Somoza´s era. That conversation had a deep impact on him and kept in secret until later published in 1986.

After the Sandinista FSLN lead Nicaragua’s 1979 Revolution, which ended more than 40 years of Somoza’s family control over Nicaragua, Coronel Urtecho become a passionate supporter of the new revolutionary government and its political agenda.

Marriage and family

Jose Coronel Urtecho and wife Maria Kautz Gross

He married Nicaraguan German descendent María Kautz Gross (Groß) to whom he dedicated many of his best poems such as “The Hunter”, “Short biography of my wife”, “Love song for the autumn” and “Lumber moon” among others.

She was the daughter of Nicaraguan German lady Elisa Gross Barberena and her German husband and cousin Richard Kautz Groß. Maria grew up with her four sisters Juana, Elisa, Julia and Mina in his parents 14,000 ha farm “San Francisco del Rio”, along the San Juan River.

Red hair, deep blue eyes and athletic figure, Maria had a strong character and a surprising physical strength for a girl. At the age of 14 she was in charge of the farm, knew how to handle a machete, drove a Caterpillar and was a skilled mechanical and carpenter who built her own ships, and ruled workers in the farm being as good or better as any of them. The Kautz Gross sisters frequently traveled on sailing boats crossing the Nicaragua Lake from the small town of San Carlos to the city of Granada, where they bought food and cloth, and sailed back to the farm.

After Coronel returned from California, one day of 1930 he saw Maria for the first time. She was in Granada building a boat on the lake coast. Then 22, she was —as usual— wearing pants, a white blouse and a straw hat; smoking and walking on the logs selecting lumber for her new ship. He asked who the “estrange” girl was and said it would be fun to date her. His friends laughed at him because all young men in the city were afraid of asking her out, and those who did were rejected. He bet his hat on succeeding at dating her.

Maria Kautz and Jose Coronel Urtecho married in the small church of San Carlos in 1931. They had seven children, six sons and one daughter. One died of cancer in childhood, Christian, and another, named after his father, mysteriously disappeared during the cold war while studying at the University of Frankfurt, Germany, in 1961. The rest of them all supported in the following years the Sandinista guerrilla and Nicaragua’s 1979 Revolution, which ended Somoza′s family dictatorship.

One of Coronel′s oldest twin sons, Manuel Coronel Kautz, is currently Nicaragua’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Head Authority of the Nicaragua Great Canal project, currently the largest economical initiative of the country. Twin Ricardo Coronel Kautz, was a member of the anti Somoza political movement known as “The Group of Twelve”, in Spanish ‘’Los Doce’’, and both were Sub Secretaries of the Agrarian Reform Institute between 1980 and 1989. The youngest son Carlos Coronel Kautz was key adviser to Edén Pastora, a guerrilla commander who separated from the Sandinistas in 1981.

His nephews, brothers Edgar Chamorro Coronel and Eduardo, on the other side, supported the “Contras” against the Sandinistas, in the civil war that took place with the United States financial support after the 1979 Revolution. They are sons of Jose’s sister Dolores “Lola” Coronel Urtecho, who married Julio Chamorro Benard, son of Filadelfo Chamorro Bolaños with wife Bertha Benard Vivas, and paternal grandson of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro Alfaro, the 39th President of Nicaragua, and wife María de la Luz Bolaños Bendaña.

Jose Coronel Urtecho had a half brother from his father side, named Luis Coronel Matus (Jr). Luis, was recognised only by his father, He took him away from his mother as he was not married to her. Luis lived with Jose and Lola, when they were kids. Luis has always been excluded from his father, Manuel Coronel Matus, biography. Luis died in 1979.


José Coronel Urtecho spent his latter years reading and writing in the small town of Los Chiles, Costa Rica, near Nicaraguan San Carlos, capital town of the San Juan River region. In 1992, his wife Maria died of lung cancer. Coronel Urtecho′s physical and emotional health quickly deteriorated after his wife death. She was, as he used to say, his “anchor to earth”. He had a tendency to suffer nervous breakdowns and suffer from mental problems during his entire life. Once Maria crossed the lake with him tided to the mast of a boat and brought him to a clinic, in Granada.

On March 19, 1994, Jose Coronel Urtecho, a man now considered one of the most influential poets of 20th century in Central America, died of skin cancer. His remains and Maria′s are buried in Los Chiles, Costa Rica.


The work of José Coronel was scattered in journals and newspapers, until the author has agreed to pick up an anthology in his book Pol-la D’Ananta, Katanta, Paranta, published in 1970, subtitled “Imitations and translations".[5]

  • Narciso (1938)
  • La muerte del hombre símbolo (1938)
  • Panorama y antología de la poesía norteamericana (1948)
  • Chinfonía burguesa (1957)
  • Rápido tránsito. Al ritmo de Norteamerica (1953, 1959)
  • Reflexiones sobre la historia de Nicaragua (De Gainza a Somoza) (1962)
  • Pol-la D'Ananta, Katanta, Paranta (1970, 1989, 1993)
  • La familia Zavala y la política del comercio en Centroamérica (1971)
  • Tres conferencias a la empresa privada (1974)
  • Paneles de infierno (1981)
  • Prosa reunida (1985)
  • Siendo pintado por Dietr Mashur (1985)
  • Conversación con Carlos (1986)
  • Líneas para un boceto de Claribel Alegría (1989).
  • Antología de poesía norteamericana -en colaboración con Ernesto Cardenal- 1963 y 2007, Editorial el perro y la Rana.


  1. ^ Arturo Cruz, Jr. Memoirs of a Counter-Revolutionary: 75
  2. ^ "Diccionario de Escritores Nicaragüenses: José Coronel Urtecho" (in Spanish). Retrieved 30 July 2007. 
  3. ^ ”. Tulane UniversityUrtecho Coronel JoseUrbina, Nicasio. 1990. Article "
  4. ^ Instituto de Historia de Nicaragua y Centroamerica. “Espacios simbólicos, iniciativas culturales y proyecto político durante la década de los 40 en Nicaragua: Revistas Nuevos Horizontes y Cuaderno del Taller San Lucas” Page 4.
  5. ^ Nicasio Urbina. 1990.

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [9] [10] [11] [12]

External links

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