José María Heredia was born in Santiago de Cuba on
December 31 1803, and lived a short thirty-five years, spending most of his
adult life in exile.
In 1818 he enrolled in the University of Havana as a law student,
and it was about this time that he met Isabel Rueda, to whom he wrote and
dedicated erotic poetry. His first dramatic effort (the play Eduardo IV o el
usurpador clemente) was produced by a theatre group in Matanzas.
On October 31 1820, his father died in Mexico.
In November 1823 Heredia joined the secret society: LOS SOLES Y
RAYOS DE BOLÍVAR (The Suns and Rays of Bolivar, named after the
liberator of South America, Simon Bolivar), which sought independence from
Spanish rule. The conspiracy was discovered, and Heredia, disguised as a
sailor, escaped to Boston. He later spent time in Philadelphia and New York,
where he earned a living as a language teacher.
Heredia's first collection of poetry was published in 1825, and was
dedicated to his uncle, Ignacio. Another collection was published in Toluca in
On September 1 1836, Heredia wrote to Captain-General (of Cuba)
Tacón and requested permission to return to Cuba, claiming that his
ideology had changed in the 12 years of his absence.
After he returned to Cuba, he was not very popular with many who
called him a "sell-out." As a result, he returned to Mexico, where he died in
May 7 1839.