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COLLECTION — Box: 1 Identifier: MS Span 202

Nicolás Guillén letters to María Luisa Santamarina


Letters from Cuban poet Nicolás Guillén to María Luisa Santamarina, a pianist with whom he was romantically involved.


  • 1947


Condition Description

In good condition. Binder discarded.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.


.2 linear feet (1 box)

Collection of 24 letters, some with drawings and with a few clippings and other documents.

Biographical / Historical

Nicolás Guillén was a Cuban poet, journalist, political activist, writer, and first winner of Cuba's National Prize for Literature (1983). Guillén drew from his mixed African and Spanish ancestry, blending traditional forms with Afro-Cuban culture. He was jailed for political reasons and joined the Communist Party; after the Cuban revolution in 1959, Guillén was welcomed back to Cuba by President Fidel Castro. He was the founder in 1961 of the Unión de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba and was considered the national poet of Cuba.

Guillén visited Uruguay from February through October, 1947, as part of a longer tour of recitals in South America. He met María Luisa Santamarina in Uruguay early in the trip. Information about her is scarce; she was born probably in 1917 and was a white classical concert pianist. In order to keep her affair with Guillén secret from her family, her correspondence with him was transmitted by friends, especially María Esther Gilio who later became a Uruguayan journalist. Their relationship ended when Maria Luisa learned Guillén was involved with another woman in Argentina. (source: dealer's description)


Letters are arranged chronologically.

Custodial History

The recipient of these letters, María Luisa Santamarina, gave them to her friend, María Esther Gilio, for safekeeping. Gilio sold the letters to a Uruguayan bookdealer in 2009 from whom the dealer involved in this acquisition presumably acquired them.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

2022M-10. Purchased from Carmichael Alonso Libros with funds from the Amy Lowell Trust, 2021 August 4.

Processing Information

Processed minimally by Melanie Wisner, 2021 September.

Guillén, Nicolás, 1902-1989. Nicolás Guillén letters to María Luisa Santamarina, 1947 (MS Span 202): Guide
2021 September 15
Description rules
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Houghton Library Repository

Houghton Library is Harvard College's principal repository for rare books and manuscripts, archives, and more. Houghton Library's collections represent the scope of human experience from ancient Egypt to twenty-first century Cambridge. With strengths primarily in North American and European history, literature, and culture, collections range in media from printed books and handwritten manuscripts to maps, drawings and paintings, prints, posters, photographs, film and audio recordings, and digital media, as well as costumes, theater props, and a wide range of other objects. Houghton Library has historically focused on collecting the written record of European and Eurocentric North American culture, yet it holds a large and diverse number of primary sources valuable for research on the languages, culture and history of indigenous peoples of the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Houghton Library’s Reading Room is free and open to all who wish to use the library’s collections.

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