People Who Kick Buts: Miguel De Cervantes
Never stand begging for that which you have the power to earn.
- Born on September 29, 1547 and passed away on April 22 1616.
- His magnum opus, Don Quixote, considered the first modern European novel, is a classic of Western literature, and is regarded amongst the best works of fiction ever written.
His influence on the Spanish language has been so great that the language is often called la lengua de Cervantes (“the language of Cervantes”). He was dubbed El Príncipe de los Ingenios (“The Prince of Wits”).
- In 1569, Cervantes moved to Rome, where he served as a valet to Giulio Acquaviva, a wealthy priest who was elevated to cardinal the next year.
- By then, Cervantes had enlisted as a soldier in a Spanish Navy infantry regiment and continued his military life until 1575, when he was captured by Algerian corsairs.
After five years of slavery he was released on ransom from his captors by his parents and the Trinitarians, a Catholic religious order. He subsequently returned to his family in Madrid.
- In 1585, Cervantes published a pastoral novel named La Galatea. Because of financial problems, Cervantes worked as a purveyor for the Spanish Armada, and later as a tax collector.
- In 1597, discrepancies in his accounts of three years previous landed him in the Crown Jail of Seville.
- In 1605, he was in Valladolid, just when the immediate success of the first part of his Don Quixote, published in Madrid, signaled his return to the literary world. In 1607, he settled in Madrid, where he lived and worked until his death. During the last nine years of his life, Cervantes solidified his reputation as a writer.
- Miguel’s father Rodrigo was a barber-surgeon of Galician descent, who set bones, performed bloodlettings, and attended “lesser medical needs”; at that time, it was common for barbers to do surgery, as well. His paternal grandfather, Juan de Cervantes, was an influential lawyer who held several administrative positions. His uncle was mayor of Cabra for many years.
- His mother, Leonor de Cortinas, was a native of Arganda del Rey and the third daughter of a nobleman, who lost his fortune and had to sell his daughter into matrimony in 1543. This led to a very awkward marriage and several affairs by Rodrigo.
- Little is known of Cervantes’ early years. It seems he spent much of his childhood moving from town to town with his family. During this time, he met a young barmaid named Josefina Catalina de Parez. The couple fell madly in love and plotted to run away together. Sadly, her father discovered their plans and forbade Josefina from ever seeing Cervantes again.
- Cervantes died in Madrid on April 22, 1616, but he was buried on April 23, 1616, when it is used to commemorate this death. To honor the date that both Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare died, UNESCO established April 23 as the International Day of the Book.