Rosalía de Castro was a Spanish-Galician writer and poet during the Romantic period who made big waves not only because of what she wrote, but also because of how she wrote it.
In the mid-1850s, writing in languages such as Gallego, from the region of Galicia, or in Catalan, from the region of Catalonia, was highly unpopular and sometimes controversial, but that’s exactly what she did.
Her first volumes of poetry were written and published in Gallego, and focused on themes such as what it means to be gallego, gallegos emigrating to different parts of Spain and the world, and saudade, a Portuguese-Galician word meaning nostalgia or homesickness.
Her later tomes of poetry, written alternately in Spanish and Gallego, focused on more social themes, such as women’s rights and child poverty. She was not only a defender of the rights of Galician people, but also of women and the downtrodden, while also being a wife and mother to seven children and dealing with chronic bad health, eventually dying from uterine cancer at the age of 48.
Despite passing away at a such a young age, her legacy remains profound, even in the present day. She is considered the foremost author in Galicia, and every year she is celebrated on May 17, which is the Day of Gallego Literature. Many schools have been named after her, and she, along with Gustavo Adolfo Becquer, is considered the precursor to modern day Spanish poetry. Finally, she was also the only woman, along with Queen Isabel, to be featured on a Spanish bill (the 500 peseta note, before the euro took place of the euro).
In an age when men dominated literature and daily social life, Rosalia de Castro is a reminder that there were indeed women who accomplished amazing things, women we need to remember and look up to and celebrate whenever we have the chance.