Biography of Alfonso Guillén Zelaya
Alfonso Guillén Zelaya was born in the city of Juticalpa, Olancho on June 27, 1887, his parents were Mr. Miguel Guillén and Mrs. Jesús Zelaya, and he was the only boy of six children. He studied primary and secondary school in his hometown and then moved to Tegucigalpa where he studied Legal and Social Sciences.
An unknown and tragic incident prevented him from completing his studies, however this did not prevent him from becoming a fierce journalist who fought against the interests of transnational companies. This battle against the company’s political and economic influence in Honduras forced him to go into exile in Mexico, a country where he would later die.
From 1919 to 1932 he practiced journalism in various countries: in El Salvador, in Guatemala and in the United States. He was Consul of Honduras in New York, secretary of the Honduran delegation to the Conference for Peace, in Versailles, France. He contemplated – and at the same time studied – the great political phenomena that shook revolutionary Europe, which strengthened his anti-imperialist thinking. He returned home, in addition to being horrified by the “greatest massacre in history,” determined to fight for the pacification of Honduras.
El Tacoma Newspaper
This name has a double echo in the history of Honduras. This was the name of the cruise ship on board which the United States government forced the departure of President Miguel R. Dávila in 1911 and the rise to power of Francisco Bertrand and Manuel Bonilla.
This is how Guillén Zelaya called the first newspaper under his direction, in his beloved Juticalpa. Without a doubt, his most important work was yet to come, but this is where his first writings begin, which will gain strength over time.
In 1913, he arrived in Guatemala for the first time, from where he sent his compositions to the great Froylán Turcios, which are published every month in the Ateneo de Honduras. He also writes for El Nuevo Tiempo, from Guatemala. In 1915 he worked in the Honduran consulate in New York, with a starting salary of $ 75, insufficient to live on, according to a letter he sent to his relatives.
At the end of the First World War in 1918, Guillén Zelaya, together with Rafael Heliodoro Valle, joined the Honduran delegation at the Conference of Versailles, France, chaired by Policarpo Bonilla. In 1921 he left the United States and returned to Guatemala as Editor-in-Chief of Diario Nuevo, of which he was later appointed Director.
President Carlos Herrera and Guillén Zelaya are overthrown in that country, faithful to the spirit that will accompany him throughout his life, write the protest document that the journalists presented to the National Congress.
In El Cronista, Guillén Zelaya develops his most valuable journalistic work, with an editorial section that becomes a trench in the hand of this indefatigable patriot along with another great one such as Paulino Valladares.
There, Guillén Zelaya wrote from November 18, 1926 to September 3, 1929, anthology editorial articles, not in vain has he been considered “one of the greatest Honduran political editorialists.”
And an example is enough for a sample. In 1929, Standard Fruit and Steamship, committed to building -from La Ceiba to Yoro- 26 kilometers of railroad per year, pressed for the government to reduce its contractual obligations. To do this, it presents to the National Congress a formal request for the number of kilometers to be reduced to 12.
But the motion was rejected by 33 votes to 3 in favor. In a report sent by the head of the US diplomatic mission in Honduras, George T. Summerling, to the Secretary of State of his country, it states that:
“The attitude of Congress is undoubtedly due in part to the bitter and continuous attacks on El Cronista, by Guillén Zelaya, which remains stubborn even in the face of the persuasion of President Vicente Mejía Colindres. He has tried to eliminate him from the political field, offering him any diplomatic post, but Guillén Zelaya rejects any offer, preferring to remain here and fight everything American and, especially, the contract with Pan American Airways and United Fruit Co. ”.
It is fair to clarify that our writer always had deep admiration for the achievements and potential of the United States, which did not prevent him from severely lashing out on its foreign policy towards Latin America.
Guillén Zelaya founded in 1931 the newspaper El Pueblo, which operated in the El Olvido neighborhood of Tegucigalpa. El Cronista ran on the right side of La Merced park.
The non-payment of subscribers led El Pueblo to close its functions, which did not diminish the pride that Guillén Zelaya felt in its creation. “Until today there has not been a newspaper in Honduras where the problems, ideas and politics of Honduras have been addressed in a broader way and with greater respect for those who have not thought or did not think like us.”
In 1933, exiled in Mexico City, he coincided with other Hondurans, intellectuals and journalists, among them: Rafael Heleodoro Valle, Martín Paz and Rafael Paz Paredes.
Its many facets
As a writer, Alfonso Guillén Zelaya ventured into many genres. Essays, poems, compositions and editorials alternated over time and in all of them he demonstrated his firm social conviction.
He embraced Morazán’s unionist vision, the universal rights of the French encyclopedists, philosophical pantheism, and social Marxism, contributing to the strengthening of the trade union movement. As a poet, he was influenced by literary modernism, as can be seen in his essay “Lo Esencial” , where reminiscences of Gabriela Mistral are appreciated.
One of the most important works of this Olanchano was his essay La inconformidad del hombre, which he read for the first time in 1945, on the occasion of the inauguration of the Faculty of Humanities of Guatemala.
In it, Guillén Zelaya addresses various thoughts that sixty years later are still as valid as they were then. “We have perfected cultivation methods … and increased crop yields, but we have limited labor effort to a limited extent … daily bread is scarce in millions of households and even in entire villages …”.
Exile of Alfonso Guillén Zelaya
The national fervor inspired in Guillén Zelaya by fiery editorials is undeniable. But it is also true that his thought transcended beyond space and time, with essays that revealed a humanistic and universal vision.
Through his many articles he lashed out at fascism, Nazism, foreign meddling, and social inequality. He also showed a keen interest and clear discernment on issues such as the death penalty, divisionism in Central America, imperialism, guerrillas, democracy, women’s rights, freedom of the press, and current issues in the old world.
He did not tolerate the repression that he had already foreshadowed months before if Tiburcio Carías Andino came to power. And that day came. That is how in 1933 he went into exile in Mexico permanently with his wife Isabel Alger Paz. His death certificate establishes high blood pressure and angina pectoris as the cause of his death.
At 2:15 in the afternoon he exhaled his last breath. He died on September 4, 1947 in Mexico. “Gentlemen,” wrote the poet Constantino Suasnavar, “the High Commissioner of the Verse, Alfonso Guillén Zelaya, has died.” While he lived in the Aztec country he continued to squander the verse and the thought that make this Honduran a life worth telling.
Work of Alfonso Guillén Zelaya
- The Gold
- Throw me on the path
- Earth and Dreamer
- La Casita de Pablo
- The New Days Will Come
- The Essential