By Brian Nixon, Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQUERUQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS April 18, 2016) — It’s fitting that Albuquerque, New Mexico, is a former Spanish colony, for while the rest of the world celebrates Shakespeare’s death and influence (d. April 23, 1616), there are a few places around the world that are celebrating one of Spain’s most influential writers, Miguel de Cervantes (d. April 22, 1616)—Albuquerque being one of them.
Cervantes was born on September 29th, 1547 in Alcaia de Henares, Spain. After serving the Roman Catholic Church (he worked for a Cardinal in Rome), Cervantes later joined the military—where he was shot, wounded, and captured by the Ottoman army. The Roman Catholic order, Trinitarians, secured his release from the Turks and Cervantes returned to Spain where he turned his attention to writing.
Cervantes published his first novel, La Galatea, in 1585. And by 1605, the first section of Don Quixote was published, bringing Cervantes widespread acclaim in the Spanish-speaking world. From 1607 until his death, Cervantes was considered one of Spain’s finest authors. Cervantes died in Madrid from possible diabetes complications. He was buried at the Convent of the Barefoot Trinitarians, the religious order that obtained his release from the Turks. Only last year — in 2015 — scientists were able to locate Cervantes’ remains .
Though Cervantes’ life and death have been overshadowed by his contemporary, William Shakespeare, Cervantes’ influence is just as notable. Don Quixote—a novel that follows Mr. Alonso Quixano on chivalrous escapades—is considered the first modern canonical novel, and stands as one of the most influential books written in the Western world. The Bokklubben World Library collection names Don Quixote as the “best literary work ever written” . The book stands as an important—and laugh out loud funny—testament of Western literature and Cervantes’ writing genius.
Many consider Cervantes on par with Shakespeare and wonder why Cervantes’ life and work are not as celebrated as his English contemporary on the 400th anniversary of his death. In a BBC article , Dario Villanueva states, “We’ve had 400 years to prepare for this, [and] there are a few events lined up but the figure of Cervantes deserves a major gesture on the part of our top institutions.” As you can surmise, Mr. Villanueva thinks Cervantes is not getting his fair share of attention. And I think Dario is right.
Even here in historic, Spanish-New Mexico, Cervantes’ 400-year celebration is lost in relation to Shakespeare. Though Santa Fe (the state Capitol) participated in a celebration of Shakespeare’s work , little attention has been given to Cervantes’s contributions to Western literature.
Fortunately, Albuquerque’s Hispanic Cultural Center is doing its part in celebrating the life and work of Spain’s famous son. To commemorate the 400th anniversary of Cervantes’ death, an original flamenco recital and performance will occur on the date of the author’s death. Described as “music and dance in an exploration of Cervantes’ major work, Don Quixote,” the work was composed by Fernando Barros, an internationally recognized composer. Barros sees the composition as a gesture of great Spanish speaking literary giants, a “melody” of literature and music that includes the works of García Lorca, Machado, Jiménez, and Cervantes.
For more information of the event, click here: http://www.nhccnm.org/events/
2) Angelique, Chrisafis (21 July 2003). “Don Quixote is the world’s best book say the world’s top authors”. The Guardian (London).
Photo captions: 1) Don Quixote by Pablo Picasso. 2) Early manuscript for Don Quixote. 3) Fernando Barros Flamenco. 4) Brian Nixon.
About the writer: Brian Nixon is a writer, musician, and minister. He’s a graduate of California State University, Stanislaus (BA) and is a Fellow at Oxford Graduate School (D.Phil.). As a published author, editor, radio host, recording artist, and visual artist,Brian spends his free time with his three children and wife, painting, writing music, reading, and visiting art museums. To learn more, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Nixon.
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