The ephemeral presence of Miguel Hernández in the province of Jaén, lasting 72 days, from March 2 to May 12, 1937, caused a transcendental imprint, not only in the province, but in universal literature itself, since this brief stay in Jaén is one of the most prolific of his literary career.
Born in Orihuela in 1910, Miguel Hernández arrived in Jaén after being killed in the Fifth Regiment and in its 1st Mobile Shock Brigade, in which he was head of the Department of Culture and an emissary exhorting the troops on the front.
After his discharge, he was assigned to Jaén as a commissioner in the propaganda body “Speaker of the South Front” with a very clear mission: to collaborate in the writing of prose and war poetry for publication in the newspapers and leaflets of the front.
Thus, the South Front promotes the evolution of the «Venceremos» Magazine. The newspaper is printed on four pages of high-quality paper and with an abundance of illustrations, which comes out twice a week, with anonymous editors, among whom Antonio Machado wrote and where Miguel Hernández himself sometimes signed with the pseudonym Antonio López.
Frente Sur, in its initial issue and in the introductory editorial “To all: ¡Salud!”, is defined as:
… a newspaper from the front and the rear. It is a war newspaper. Of implacable war against the traitor and the invader (…)
A work that, as commissioner in the Speaker of the South Front will lead Miguel Hernández to cover the chronicle of the siege of the Virgen de la Cabeza Sanctuary in Andújar and to have direct knowledge of the Battle of Lopera, among other actions.
In the capital of Granada, he would reside in the Commissariat building, located at 9 Calle Llana –now Francisco Coello, 9–, palace of the Marquis of Blanco Hermoso, and where the Speaker of the South Front is also located.
The fruitful and significant work of Miguel Hernández in Jaén began the same day of his arrival, since March 2 is the date “Aceituneros”, becoming a provincial anthem in Jaén. Later, on March 4, “The Struggle and the Life of the Spanish Peasant” was dated.
Andalusians of Jaén,
proud olive pickers,
tell me from your soul: who,
who raised up the olive trees?
They were not raised up by nothing,
nor by money, nor by the master,
but by the silent earth,
by work and by sweat.
Together with pure water
and together with the planets,
these three gave beauty
to the twisted trunks.
Rise up, silver haired olive tree,
they said at the foot of the wind.
And the olive tree raised
a powerful hand as its foundation.
Andalusians of Jaén,
proud olive pickers,
tell me in your soul: who
suckled the olive trees?
Your blood, your life,
not that of the exploiter
who grew rich on the
generous wound of sweat.
Not that of the landowner
who buried you in poverty,
who trod on your brow,
who made you bow your head.
Trees which your effort
brought into the broad light of day,
provided the bread
eaten only by someone else.
How many centuries of olives,
with your feet and hands kept captive
from sun to sun and moon to moon,
weigh down on your bones!
Andalusians of Jaén,
proud olive pickers,
my soul asks: to whom,
to whom do these olive trees belong?
Jaén, rise up bravely
on your stony, moon-like land,
do not be a slave
along with all your olive groves.
Within the clarity
of the oil and its aromas,
they proclaim your liberty
the liberty of your hillsides.
Miguel Hernández is also closely linked with another municipality of Jaén, Quesada, through his wife Josefina Manresa. Miguel and Josefina were married on March 9 in the Orihuela court, just a week after being assigned to Jaén. Although she stayed barely 3 years in that town, since her father was a civil guard and they consigned him to another destination, both wanted to know the hometown of his wife. A trip that they could never make together (she did visit him later in 1964, encouraged by some friends who insisted that she get to know the town), as expressed by Josefina Manresa in her Memories:
“While in Jaén, with Miguel, I expressed my desire to go to know my town, and he was also excited to see it and please me, but Quesada turned out to be further away from Jaén than we thought, and there was no easy way to go , and because of my hasty stay there we are left with that wish. “
Miguel Hernández and Josefina Manresa had two children. The first of them, Manuel Ramón, the protagonist of many of his verses, was born on December 19, 1937, but died a few months after being born. It is necessary to emphasize the one that he dedicates to his wife when he knows that he is going to be a father, as it is one of the last poems he writes in Jaén: Song of the Soldier Husband, which appears published in The Blue Overalls (magazine of the republican side during the Civil War ) of May 10, 1937:
I have sown your womb with love and seed,
prolonged the echo of blood I answered
and I wait in the furrow as the plough waits:
I have reached into the depths.
To his second son, Manuel Miguel, he dedicated his famous Lullaby of the Onion:
My little boy
was in hunger’s cradle.
He was nursed
on onion blood.
But your blood
is frosted with sugar,
onion and hunger.(…)
At the end of the Civil War, after clandestinely crossing the Portuguese border, he was arrested by the police of the fascist dictator Salazar and handed over to the Francoist authorities. After his captivity in the jails of Seville and Madrid (where he wrote the Lullaby of the Onion), he was released thanks to the efforts of his friends and because crossing the border clandestinely was not considered a serious crime and thus relieve the crowded prisons .
But when he returned to Orihuela in search of his wife and son, he was betrayed and imprisoned again, tried, accused of joining the military rebellion and sentenced to death, although the death penalty was commuted to 30 years in prison.
In prison he suffered unfortunate hardships that made him seriously ill with bronchitis and later typhus, which led to a fatal tuberculosis, and he dies on March 28, 1942 in Alicante prison.
Literary production of Miguel Hernández
The premature death of Miguel Hernández at the age of 31, truncated one of the most brilliant trajectories of Spanish literature, which undergoes a prodigious evolution, from the reigning gongorism in the Generation of 27 as manifested in “Lunar Expert”, to the popular heroism infused by the Civil War as exhibited in “Wind of the Village” or Miguel Hernández is discovered overwhelmed by pain and misery in “Songbook of Absences”.
His “Jaen era” is clearly marked by that popular heroism, which is welcomed in the pages of the newspaper Frente Sur:
“Companion of our Days”, no 1 –21 March, 1937–;
under the pseudonym Antonio López.
“The Evaded from the fascist Hell”, no 3 –28 March, 1937–
«On the Front of Extremadura», no 6 –8 April, 1937–. under the pseudonymM. H.
«The poor Man´s Son», no 6 –8 April,1937–; under the pseudonymAntonio López.
«Bombarded City», no 7 –11 April, 1937–.
«Broken Home», no 8 –15 April, 1937–.
«On the 8 April Decree. Fascism and Spain», no 9 –18 April,1937.
«Life in the Rear», no 9 –18 April, 1937–; under the pseudonym. Undated, in La Carolina.
«Children of the Iron», no 12 –1 May 1937–; under the pseudonym Antonio López.
«Labour Day», no 12 –1 May 1937–.
«The surrender of Cabeza», no 13 –6 May 1937–.
«The Traitors of the Sanctuary of Cabeza», no 15 –13 May
«On the taking of Cabeza. Letter and Clarification», no 15 –13 May 1937–;
The relpy –«Companion Juan Celdrán», under the initials M. H.93.
«The Issues of Bread», no 15 -13 May 1937-, under the pseudonym Antonio López.
«Soldier Family», no 17 -20 May 1937-.
« Mussolini Cinderell», first published, as «Sanguinary Mussolini», in La voz del combatiente, no 83; 24 March1937.
«Call to Youth», in Nueva Cultura, no 1; Valencia, March, 1937.
Below, his publications:
1933.- Lunar Expert
1934.- If only they could see you now and the shadow of what you used to be: self sacramental
1934.- The Bravest Bullfighter
1936.- The Unending Lightning
1937.- Wind of the Village. Poems in War
1937.- Drama in War
1939.- The Man on the Prowl
1938-1941.- Songbook of Absences
Web Portal of Miguel Hernández ´s Legacy
Web Portal of Zabaleta Museum – Miguel Hernández-Josefina Manresa
Web Portal of Miguel Hernández