Rosalía de Castro was a poet and novelist who wrote in both the regional language of Galicia, gallego, and in Castilian Spanish. She is best known for her “Cantares Gallegos” which are considered the greatest works of poetry in Gallego and of primary importance in its recognition as language. Rosalía de Castro is also regarded as a pre-cursor of modern Spanish poetry and today is an icon of Galician culture.
During her lifetime Gallego was considered a lower-class dialect with Castilian Spanish thought to be the only language suitable for literature. In addition, the literary efforts of women were not taken seriously, so for much of her life Rosalía struggled in the face of indifference, ignorance and scorn.
Rosalía was the illegitimate daughter of a priest and a mother with few economic resources. Her baptism certificate states that her parents were unknown. She was brought up in the countryside by an aunt, but later went to live with her natural mother in the capital of Galicia, Santiago de Compostela.
She was given a basic education suitable for women, mainly consisting of drawing and music. At the age of 21 she married Manuel Murguía who was a champion of Galician culture and it was he who published her work in defiance of predominant social prejudices. Rosalía gave birth to seven children, two of whom died in infancy. Her marriage was fraught with economic problems which required the couple to move to various regions of Spain. However Rosalía spent her final years in Galicia.
She suffered from ill-health throughout her life and died of cancer of the uterus at the age of 48. The true literary importance of her work was only recognized years after her death. Today there are monuments and buildings named after Rosalía de Castro all over the world and her poetry has been translated into many languages, including Japanese.